Shunning and the Christian Group
It was in the context of this type of culture that the New Testament documents came into being. In the group culture of Mediterranean peoples, the honor-shame system was quite powerful and the language of this culture dominates much of the NT writings. An understanding of such social practices contributes a great deal to biblical studies. It was important to be an honorable person and to be viewed by society at large as honorable. Society had values by which one would maintain and even increase in honor. Of course, the opposite of this is true as well. If one did not live up to those values, they would be shamed. Hardly anything is worse in that culture than being shamed. It drove Judas to suicide. Enter the Christian group. The Christian group was very small and very distinct. Repeatedly, the NT writers fill their time writing and preaching about the divine values brought to them by the revelation of God in Christ. These values serve to identify who you are as a person. A person could not pass themselves off as Christian unless he or she lived by these values. And on those occasions where the effort was made to do so, the consequences were clear and could prove severe. This is what Paul had in mind as he penned this sentence to the Church at Thessalonica.