And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, 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. I Thessalonians 5:14-18 (NRSV)
Do you remember the first time that you were invited to a friend’s home to have dinner or to spend the night? Your parent or parents gave you permission to accept the invitation. As you are leaving your home to go with your hosts or before your parent or parents left you with your hosts, a brief litany of manners was recited. Your parent or parents may have said. Now remember to mind your manners. Say “yes, sir,” and “No ma’am.” Say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “May I be excused?” “Be sure and mind Mr. and Mrs. _______ or else you may not be invited again.” “Play nice, play fair … and have a good time!” Does any of that sound familiar?
Well, what we have in the latter half of I Thessalonians 5 seems to be a litany of good behavior that the Apostle Paul commends to the Thessalonians. “And we urge you beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.” The Apostle Paul knew the value of being industrious and his admonition to the idlers goes back to his familiarity with Proverbs: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” (16:27) He recognizes the importance of encouragement, helping and patience in dealing with people and basically commends the Thessalonians to help one another. We can indeed make a difference in people’s lives by these appropriate words, deeds and attitude.
If a brother or sister mistreats you, then you are not to seek revenge and what is more you should repay their evil with goodness! This admonition seems to echo Jesus’ sentiments as found in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:38-39; 7:12) Doing good to one another and to all, includes even our enemies.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When it is hard to be joyful, when you wonder if your prayers are being heard and when complaining seems more appropriate than giving thanks, then the apostle’s closing words serve as a timely reminder to the Thessalonians as well as to us! This little section comprises some of the Apostle Paul’s “parting shots” to the Thessalonians. Methinks they speak well to us too!
God of love, we thank You for parents and parental figures who stressed the importance of minding our manners. In our dealings with brothers and sisters within and outside the church, help us to live in accord with these admonitions that the Apostle Paul gave to the Thessalonians. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.