“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (Reference: 2 Thessalonians 3:6 )
What is this being “idle”? (I ask on a day when I do not have to go to work.) Is it, as the historic Anabaptist Jacob the Chandler, being sinful? He wrote to his children in his fourth letter to them, “Hence, that which Paul bound on earth was bound in heaven, for he did it with the power of Christ; for this was the power which they had received, to cut off such offensive members, and to purge out that old leaven, that they might be a new lump. Hence he writes to the Thessalonians: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” 2 Thess. 3:6.”
Or is it as The Message states saying, “Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.” (Verses 6 to 9) Clearly the emphasis and meaning is to distance yourself from people who don’t want to work for their own livelihood.
Both meanings are worthy of a rebuke. But does this passage mean living in sin, or just being lazy? It is an interesting insight into the historic Anabaptist mind (or maybe just Jacob the Chandler). And that does come through to some modern Anabaptists/Mennonites, that not being industrious is “sinful” living.
When we rebuke a brother or sister, beloved, let us be sure what they have done that deserves a rebuke; and that the action is consistent with how the rest of our faith circle believes. For Jacob the Chandler also wrote in this same letter, “I . . . confess a Christian excommunication, or exclusion from the church, which Christ and His apostles themselves ordained and instituted.” “Confess” in this sentence and context means he believes and approves of it. In the letter he equates being “idle” to living in a very sinful state, referencing the admonition that Paul gave the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5:1ff. But this I think does not meet the level of idleness that is meant in the 2 Thessalonians passage cited. So again I say beloved, rebuke carefully and with care.
May you, beloved, enjoy your times of rest and repose. But may you also live in a way befitting being sons and daughters of our Lord. Selah!