Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sixteen Powerful Truths from Eleven Verses (#3)

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I hope you are as well.

Over the past few days we have been looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22. In these verses are sixteen powerful, practical truths. I hope to expound a little on each one. This passage of Scripture has been some of my favorite since I was a young boy. Let me share it with you from the English Standard Version of the Bible:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, (13) and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (14) And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (15) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (16) Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (19) Do not quench the Spirit. (20) Do not despise prophecies, (21) but test everything; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.

Previously we have looked five of these truths:

#1 Respect & Esteem (highly in love) those in leadership
#2 Be at peace
#3 Admonish the undisciplined and idle #4 Encourage the fainthearted
#5 Help the weak

Today, let's look at three others:

#6 Be patient with them all-

Paul encourages us to be patient with the "fainthearted, undisciplined, and the weak." Many times we are more patient with a complete stranger than we are with the ones we love the most…our families. God instructs us to be patient with everyone, especially those who are struggling. Let's look a little deeper at this word patience.

The Greek word for patience in this passage is, makrothumei, which is patience with people—patience that does not retaliate. It is a picture of self-restraint in contrast to wrath or revenge. Church discipline must always be tempered with this kind of patience. Too often, discipline is exercised as a means of getting even for real or imagined wrongs. Patience is willing to go the extra distance with the goal of restoration and reconciliation.

Makrothumei also denotes "longanimity," slowness to anger or passion; longsuffering, patient endurance, forbearance. It is opposed to haste; to passionate expressions and thoughts, and to irritability. It denotes the state of mind which can bear long when oppressed, provoked, and when one seeks to injure us.

Digging even deeper, the word means to have the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness; sustaining afflictions of body or mind with fortitude, calmness or Christian submission to the divine will; as a patient person, or a person of patient temper.

We all need to ask God to help us in this area of patience. Patience is also one of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

"Lord, help me to be long spirited in dealing with those who are hurting and struggling. Also, help me to be more understanding with my family."

#7 Do not repay evil with evil-

It is natural for our flesh to want to "do unto others what they have done unto us" or "do unto others before they do unto us." However, that is not the way Jesus taught us to live in what is called by many, the golden rule:

Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus teaches us to "do unto others as we would have them do unto us." Not to give someone what they deserve. Aren't you glad that you and I didn't get what we deserved from our Lord? I deserved hell, for the wages of sin is death. But thank God, He gave me life through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Because of that, I should strive to repay evil done to me with good.

In this day of lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul's command to not repay evil with evil sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him. Why does Paul tell us to forgive our enemies? (1) Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation. (2) It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways. (3) By contrast, repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy. Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness.

#8 Seek to do good to everyone-

Rendering evil for evil creates the classic lose-lose situation. You insult me. I insult you. We both lose. On the global scale, the superpowers during the cold war developed the ultimate model of the tragedy of evil for evil. You fire your nuclear warhead; I fire mine. We all lose. How do you break the cycle? One party has to risk a new approach.

And that is portrayed as pursuing "what is good both for yourselves and for all." This is about as close to a definition of agapē love as you'll ever find. In the potential evil-for-evil situation, what is good for one is good for both. Whatever risks are taken to break the cycle should be based upon what is good for oneself. This is a point often missed, but Paul's order is profound. He starts with what is good for "yourselves." If I respond to the insult or the attack by asking what is best for me, and pursue that with some measure of long-range common sense, what I come up with will have the highest potential for both of us. So my goal should be to "seek to do good to everyone." Amen? Blessings!

Pastor Rusty


Anonymous said...

Good stuff my brother.