Friday 16th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – Closing Remarks
1 Thessalonians 5: 12 – 21
But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
As often at the end of a NT epistle, lots of good stuff about Christian living, relevant to every age. While to us it sounds like sound Christian teaching, for the new converts who heard it first, some of these instructions would be radically different to their former way of life. Writing this in Coronavirus lockdown, the whole country is respecting those who labour among us and esteeming them highly because of their work: NHS workers, care staff, all involved in food production and supply, teachers, waste disposal workers and many more, some of them people we take for granted and only now realise fully the immense value of what they do.
But in fact, Paul is inviting respect for people working among the Thessalonians to build up the church, those with oversight and responsibility. So let’s be thankful too for church ministers, CRCWs, moderators and all those who work in our denomination (and others), even when what they say is challenging or difficult.
A minister’s role has been defined as ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – or, as Paul says here to an individual leader, give a kick to some, get people who think they can’t do things to have a go, help the weak, give encouragement, and be patient with everyone, treating them as individuals loved by God.
Paul also warns us to be careful with what we hear, testing everything: again, relevant in these days of fake news, scams and phishing emails. Don’t believe everything you hear but test to see if it is genuine. How do we recognise the authentic word of God in our information-loaded lives? Seeking to do good, praying and rejoicing, working to reach consensus in our Church meetings on where the Spirit is leading, and abstaining from evil, are all things that are commended to us.
Lord we thank you for calling women and men from all backgrounds into ministry, both as ordained and lay people, to build up your Kingdom in love. Give wisdom, discernment and patience to all who work alongside people at times of need, in good times and difficult times. May they be guided by your Spirit always. Amen