Monday, January 5, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:14,15 (The Gentle Push)

This is one of those curious/ironic passages, where Paul says one thing and then turns around and says something unexpected or (apparently) contradictory in the same verse.

He tells the church (not just the leaders) to admonish the unruly (or in some versions, lazy), encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak. Three instructions for the church to basically light a fire under it members; to spur people into practice, boldness, and action… and then he tells them to be patient with everyone. One can’t help but notice that the “everyone” includes the members who are not disciplined in their walk, not courageous in their faith, and are powerless to act.

Well, we can sure use this passage in the church today! We are a mass of buildings full of lazy, cowardly, anemic Christians. To make matters worse, the only thing we seem to get excited about are self-help versions of the Gospel or knocking each other down over our short-comings. We need both sides of this teaching. We need to push each other on towards excellence, but we need to do so in a Dumbledore/Obi-Wan sort of way… gently prodding and guiding and being very tolerant of each other… because that is the sense of the word “patience” here. Not the tolerance popular in today’s culture that says, “Do what you will; everything is permissible.” But rather, “I will love you for whom you are and help you see who you were really created to be.”

In fact, all too often we have gone beyond verse 14 and really need to hear 15 first.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see churches where all the membership was performing that ministry for each other? This teaching of Paul comes on the heels of his instruction to respect the leadership of the church, but this teaching is for all the members, not just the leaders.

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