One of the key ideas in the book of 1 Thessalonians is the one I focused on as the cornerstone of chapter two—A Real Life Faith is Raised In Relationships.
All of these cornerstone ideas of this series are kind of recapped, or reprised as my musical background prefers, in the last part of the letter (5.12-24).
In the first few verses of this passage, the Apostle admonishes his readers about some of the relational dynamics among church life:
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
That’s a big bite, but we can break it down a bit.
First, he urges them to be respectful and appreciative toward leaders, pastors, mentors in the faith. He urges them to live peaceably together. These should be a given, but remember that Paul is reminding them of the ways their faith should work out in day-to-day life.
But then he seems to press the more challenging matters. He urges them to “admonish the idle,” which is to call one another out when we try to just be a spectator in the family. He reminds us to encourage those who are struggling to carry on and “help the weak.” Then he underscores the importance of graciousness, “be patient with them all.”
He challenges our thinking when he writes, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.” It’s not that no treats someone badly, but that no one gives back such behavior. We are, according to the apostle, to hold each other to account to give better than we receive, constantly raising the bar of expectation for one another.
He concludes this line of thought with the simple admonition, “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” It’s the summation of the living out of the life of faith, to love others well.
You see, a real life faith really is raised in relationships and will play out in just such a way. If it is real, it will show in how we do life together.
Paul challenges us, encourages us, to embrace this sideways dimension of our faith because a real life faith is raised in relationships.
Father, break us of the flawed thinking of an independent faith-life. Teach us to lean into the living out of our faith in relationships.