Jeremiah 20:7-21:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; Psalms 82:1-5; Proverbs 19:27-29
NT: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 CSB)
At the close of his letter, Paul gave instruction and encouragement in what is required to live in and maintain a healthy family of faith. Paul saw the community of believers in Thessalonica as a family – which is why he referred to the believers as brothers and sisters. Healthy and functional family is a key component to life in Christ. Children need healthy families to survive the hardships of life and grow into mature adults. Without healthy and functional family, children will either not survive, or will grow into incomplete adults suffering from various levels of dysfunction. The same is true of believers in Christ: we need to belong to and participate in healthy and functional families of faith, otherwise we may become casualties of the world, the flesh and the devil, or we will “grow” into immature believers that do not have a fully functioning faith.
A family is like a body. For a body to function properly, it needs a head to provide leadership and direction to all parts of the body. The same is true of biological families and spiritual church families. If we ignore, disrespect or even despise the leaders of our families, chaos and anarchy will ensue, and the family will be completely dysfunctional. That is why Paul encouraged the spiritual family in Thessalonica to give recognition to (pay attention to, cherish, have regard for) those who have been given the responsibility of leadership. Every part of a body has a role to play. The head is just as much a part of the body as the appendix or the knee. Leaders in a family of faith are not and should not be separated from the rest of the family – they labor among the other family members in their role of leadership. For the family to function in health and be full of life, the leadership needs to be recognized and not resented.
Sometimes, certain parts of a body may struggle in their ability to carry out their function. When that happens, the entire body experiences the effect. The same is true of families. Not every family member is completely mature, fully healthy, and able to fulfill their role. In any family, there will be people who act up and become unruly. That is what the word ‘idle’ in this passage means. When that happens, they need to be warned, corrected and exhorted. There will be people who become discouraged and faint-hearted… not sure if they can do what they have been called to do and in danger of giving up. Those people need to be encouraged and comforted. There will be people who are weak, either in faith, strength or ability and are unable to carry their load. Those people need to be held on to and helped. In whatever failure or inability we may find in our family, we need to (as a family) persevere in patience – enduring the troubles, and bearing with and forgiving the offenses. A well-functioning body does not turn on it’s members. All of the members work together to function in health, and if one member is weak, the rest of the body compensates unto healing and wholeness. That is how our spiritual family should be – not turning on one another when there are disagreements, but always seeking the good for everyone and the good of the family as a whole.
How do we do that? Paul gave a list of practical things to do to remain healthy and fully functioning within the family of faith: Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything, don’t stifle the Spirit, don’t despise prophecies, test all things, hold on to what is good, and stay away from every kind of evil. If we are faithful in these things, the God of peace, who can bring peace and sustain peace in our families, will sanctify us (individually and corporately) into completeness and maturity.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You have placed me in family – both a biological family and a spiritual family. I need family in order to remain healthy and fully functioning. The global pandemic has made that truth evermore evident. There are no perfect families, but I can be perfectly fit into family and contribute to its health and strength by remaining in You and walking in the fullness of Your Spirit. Grace me to live and function in the family You have given me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.