My father had a tradition. Whenever we went into a supermarket together as a family, while we were food shopping with us kids in the basket, he would swing by the candy aisle. His target was a bag of jellied rings, you know, the kind that are gooey in the middle and covered with sugar. They kind of taste like candy toothpaste with sugar on top. I still love those things in all their disgustingness – black licorice is my favorite. Dad would grab one of the bags of candy and open it up and give the candy to us as we shopped.
As kids this was awesome as we never spent time with dad or got candy and it firmly planted dad at least for the moment in the cool category. When we would reach the end of shopping list and it was time to check out, dad would turn a quiet corner at the market and slip the opened bag back onto the shelves. He would never pay for the ones we ate and make an excuse why. I know now that this is clearly theft, but the little boy version of me was unbelievably confused by this family tradition.
It felt good — candy is good, but it also felt terrible — even then I knew it was wrong….and Dad was doing it so it had to be somewhat okay, right? Talk about a mixed message.
Fast forward to 20 years and I found myself in a supermarket with my little ones and we hit the candy aisle for some jelly rings. “Daddy is awesome” the cry goes up from the little lips as I grab a bag of jellied sugar. After sampling a few, I was a young parent don’t judge, it comes time to check out and what do you think happens? What do I do, What do I do?
I never did carry out the tradition, but I sure did want to and frankly it was a struggle not to – sin was crouching at my door because of my father’s choice to sin 20 years before. He may have said not to steal and not to hurt others, but in his actions he showed me the exact opposite.
I thought of the jelly rings while preparing for a message on the last part of 2 Thessalonians, specifically:
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
2 Thessalonians 3:6-7
In this section, Paul is writing to the Church at Thessalonika about the members of the church who are unruly or walk in disobedience. The word he uses for unruly is a military term that means out of step or not in line with the rest of the group. Earlier in 1 Thessalonians, Paul had told the church that these folks should be warned about their disobedience – taken aside and shown where they are violating Scripture with the goal of bringing them back in line. In 2 Thessalonians 3 though, Paul goes further and states that if the unruly brothers are not repentant, the church should withdraw from them – remove the wonderful comfort and love of the church so that the offender will feel the sting of his own sin and turn back to God. Jesus also covers this church discipline process in Matthew 18.
Just to be clear, this is not sin sniffing – it is not disagreeing with you about politics, using instruments, or being Pre-Trib or Post -Trib or even just being annoying – but it deals with someone who is in open, unrepentant sin. It assumes that the steps from Matthew 18 have been carried out and every attempt to bring the struggling brother back into fellowship have failed. In this case it is not a brother who is struggling, but one who is not. Someone completely given over to their sin. They have chosen sin and know they are choosing sin. The man sleeping with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5 is an example. Paul says not to be like them and not to keep company with them.
What is amazing here and elsewhere in Paul’s writings is how he tells the church to judge that what he says is true and possible to carry out. Paul says they can know what he is saying is true and right by looking at his life and following his example. When in doubt follow me. He expresses a similar sentiment in 1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ
and 1 Timothy 4:12
but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Follow me following Christ is Paul’s simple direction to the churches. When lost, confused, upset or facing opposition or sin, keep your eyes on your human example of how to Christ so you don’t lose track of Christ. They should walk like Paul does following Jesus.
It is simple as all get out, but fathers, it is also the key to raising a Godly young man. Follow Christ, tell them how to follow Christ, tell them to watch you following Christ and then walk that out.
Kids are smart. Though they may be just out of diapers, they can tell when Mom and Dad are not doing what they tell them to do. As they get older, any disparity between words and actions in a parents life becomes like a blinking neon roadsign in their lives — go ahead and sin, go ahead and sin, don’t listen to Jesus, Mom does it, Dad does it. It is a tacit recommendation for sin in their lives.
How many men had their first encounter with porn through finding something that dad was hiding?
What messages does that send? Sin, which like jelly rings are pleasurable for a time, is good and you just need to hide it. Ignore the Spirit that is telling you that it is wrong. Also – if we are being honest — don’t listen to me as I am not to be trusted. Dad may be following Christ in public, but there is always room for secret sin. Follow me looking at porn in secret. Follow me, drinking my face off. Follow me, stealing from work.
The question is really simple — are we able to say to our sons be imitators of me as I imitate Christ. As Paul attests about himself, this does not mean follow Christ perfectly but earnestly and continually. In victory and in defeat, in much or want, follow Christ so that the one following you can see you follow Christ and be taught to do the same! If we do so, then we have done everything we can to raise a man of God.
If not, then what sin have we left crouching at our sons door for them to struggle with for their lifetime?