During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.
Tuesday, 8 December 2020 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
12. We ask you, brothers and sisters, to appreciate those working among you, leading you, and advising you in the Lord.
13. Have immense regard for them in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
14. Brothers and sisters, we encourage you that you must warn the undisciplined, cheer up the sad, hold onto the weak, and be patient with all.
15. You must see to it that you do not return evil for evil, but always pursue good for one another and for everyone.
16. You must always rejoice.
17. You must constantly pray.
18. You must give thanks in all things. This is the will of God in Messiah Jesus for you.
19. You must not quench the Spirit.
20. You must not despise prophecy.
21. You must test all things. You must hold fast to the good.
22. You must avoid every form of evil.
23. May the God of peace himself make you holy through and through – in spirit, soul, and body – that you may be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Messiah Jesus.
24. The one who called you is faithful to do it.
25. Brothers and sisters, you must pray for us.
26. You must greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.
27. I solemnly charge you in the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters.
28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Messiah be with you.
Appreciation for Christian leadership is absent in our culture. I continually speak to ministers and one after the other share with me how miserable their life is. I am in a great situation, but I am worried about my brothers and sisters in other environments.
The sad thing is, this was avoidable. For the last generation preachers and church pontificators have turned worship and church into a spectator sport geared toward gaining the largest possible marketshare regardless of the consequences. The result is a fanbase and not a fellowship. This is at best a fickle faith that says when the pastor no longer says everything I agree with or who tells me something that challenges me, well, fine I’ll go somewhere else where they will tell me what I want to hear.
Church is not a consumer good, and communities are not interchangeable. Treating it as such demonstrates infantile behavior.
Itching ears always want to be scratched. By contrast to this itching playing to the crowd, verse 14 teaches something which would make a great four point sermon. First, warn the undisciplined. Given the earlier verses, we can assume this is a warning against their lifestyle of selfishness that has them teetering on the edge of destruction. Second, cheer up the sad. The sad are those who are suffering loss. This is about grief ministry revolving through our hope of eternal life. Third, hold onto the weak. These are no doubt weaker brothers and sisters in Christ whom we must hold close to and drag them along the walk of faith. Fourth, be patient with all. This probably is a reflection on the tension he felt earlier in the letter about whether or not they had walked away from the faith. Patience is an important part of any relationship.
Most of the verbs in this section are imperatives, like verse 13 where the teaching to be at peace is not a suggestion but an imperative, literally “you must be at peace”. But beginning with verse 16 there is a series of eight imperatives with two more in verses 25 and 26 that ratchet up the intensity. Most English renderings drop the imperative feel with things like “pray continually” “Do not quench” or “greet”. However, I feel like as Paul is winding this down he wants that urgent feel of command. This is not optional. In light of issues like life, death, defection, and the return of Messiah these are vital nonnegotiables. We must do these things.
Questions For Application
- What have you done to demonstrate appreciation for your spiritual leadership?
- Which comes most natural to you — warning others, cheering others, holding others, or being patient with others?
- Which is hardest for you — warning others, cheering others, holding others, or being patient with others.
- Among those ten imperatives, which one do you need to focus on most right now?
- Is there another ‘must’ you feel is missing from your life that is not on this list?