A Statement Posted on Facebook by Andy Stanley on November 8, 2022
Today, most people see truth, including right and wrong, as subjective, a matter of their own preferences and opinions. However, truth is absolute; right and wrong aren’t subjective but objective — applicable to all people at all times under all circumstances. Thus, “the rules,” as Andy Stanley refers to them, do apply to unbelievers, for all people stand guilty and condemned before a holy God (see Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 3:23; 6:23). It is misleading at best and an outright lie at worst to say, as Andy Stanley does, that “the rules [aren’t for unbelievers but] are for family.” And then to add “So, Christians, let’s mind our own business.”
It’s also misleading to say to unbelievers, “How you choose to live your life is none of our business.” How unbelievers live does have implications for all because of the societal and cultural implications of widespread behavior.
Of course, Christians who are judgmental and who attempt to dictate to their non-Christian neighbors, friends, and family members how to live are wrong to to so (see 1 Cor. 5:9-13); there is an element of truth in what Andy Stanley is saying. Far too much of what he says, however; is way off base. The passage Stanley uses actually doesn’t fit the point he is trying to make.
Recall that Stanley quotes 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. In its introduction to 2 Thessalonians, the Holman Bible Handbook notes that the time between Paul’s writing his First Letter to the Thessalonians and his Second Letter “must have been rather short, for the second epistle does not presuppose major changes in the inner constitution of the Thessalonians church or in the conditions under which Paul was writing….”1 In other words, in 2 Thessalonians, the apostle continued to address some of the very same issues about which he had written in his earlier epistle.
Apparently some of the believers in the Thessalonian church had become so focused on Christ’s second coming and so convinced His return was imminent that they had quit their jobs and were becoming dependent on others for their basic needs.2 Thus, certain followers of Christ had become freeloaders, and they had done so because of several misguided and distorted beliefs they held about the Lord and their own Christian lives. They were failing to represent Christ faithfully and responsibly. Paul reminded them in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”
As we’ve indicated, this problem also is evident in 1 Thessalonians. Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe writes of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (the passage that Andy Stanley quotes in the above clip) that the apostle was admonishing his readers to “earn their own wages and not become freeloaders depending on the support of unbelievers.”3 People without work are idle and tend to meddle in other peoples’ affairs,4 so the term “busybodies” (see 2 Thess. 3:11) is quite fitting.
It wasn’t that the Thessalonian Christians were dictating to the unbelievers in their midst how to live, but that they themselves were living irresponsibly and thereby misrepresenting Christ, the church, and Christianity itself.
Andy Stanley’s use of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 as a platform from which to apologize to non-Christians, therefore, is misleading on multiple levels.
- It misrepresents what was happening in Thessalonica in Paul’s day;
- it misrepresents what a great many Christians are attempting to do when they seek to help non-Christians understand their sinful condition and their need of Christ; and
- hearing Stanley say, “The rules don’t apply to you” gives unbelievers a false sense of security regarding eternity.
For the Wokepedia Minute version of this article, go here.
1Holman Bible Handbook, “2 Thessalonians,” (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 733.
3Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2: Ephesians-Revelation, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), 177.
4Warren Wiersbe, 178.