Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. Reference: 2 Thessalonians 3:16
This is the final blessing from Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonika, and, as such is the last word from some of the earliest bits of the New Testament writings. Interestingly, it follows a fairly strong section on being separated from those who will not follow Paul’s admonitions, in particular, to those who are idle (not busy, but busybodies, as the NIV puts it). I suspect that Paul has in mind the very real possibility that there will be strife as a result of this command to separate. There is a very real tension between getting along and living a godly life together.
On the one hand, we have the words of “Millenium” (not inappropriate, given Paul’s treatments about the Lord’s returning):
Let all who would wish to see Millennium begin,
Come out and be separate from sinners and sin.
As soon as the churches are redeemed from sin,
The day of the Millennium will surely begin.
On the other, we have those–many of whom who are in the Mennonite Church–who shrink back at any thought of disfellowshipping or strong admonition.
How are we to bring the two together? In Paul’s particular case, he was confident that God would work in them:
The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.
And he prayed for and blessed them, as we see in today’s scripture, as well as his blessing earlier in the passage:
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Perhaps, too, we can pray for, and look for, God to work in the lives of people, even as we admonish them and (at times, hard though they be) separated from them, especially praying for restoration and protection from the evil one.