Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Getting Along

Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 NKJV)

This passage offers helpful insight on congregational harmony and reminds us of John 13.35 where Jesus taught that the world would see our love for each other and conclude that we were His disciples. The Thessalonians text does not contain the word “love,” but with other words describes some dimensions of love.

It is of interest that sandwiched around the three descriptors of love are the concepts of peace and patience. Love in full bloom creates a healthy measure of patience which is fertile soil for the culture of peace. When my younger son was going through the rather lengthy interview process that eventually resulted in his being hired as a police officer, one trait his future employer was attempting to discover in the applicants was the ability to show restraint. A strong person is not a loose cannon. The Bible associates strength with patience.

I understand that the word translated “warn” can carry with it the idea of gentle reproof. As we try to help someone who needs to do better, we must remember that we all need to do better. Galatians 6.1 calls this attitude “a spirit of gentleness.”

For “comfort the fainthearted” the NIV has “encourage the timid.” I can think of numerous occasions when I personally was hesitant about doing something that I needed to do, and God in His providence gave me a gentle nudge after which I acted. I think it was His providence, though one can never know for sure on a case by case basis. But, someone gave me a word of encouragement and the timidity went away. Who can you encourage? Who will you encourage?

To “uphold the weak” is to “help the week” as many other translations render it. There is no person breathing who does not need help. They may not all know it, they may not all even want it. But everyone needs help. Remember that Jesus said He came to be a helper: just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28 NKJV) Are you a helper? Whose life will you bless by helping?

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