The peaceful church -- 1 Thess 5:12-13

I have grown very fond of Paul's portraits of the church over the last couple of years. In ministry circles, we engage in "shop talk" -- approaches, strategies, and methods to doing the work of God. Using methods to do the work of God may sound oxymoronic to you -- and maybe it should. But that's another conversation.

Back to the refreshment of Paul's portraits of the church. This morning I would like to comment about 1 Thess 5. For this post I will just comment on two verses: 12-13.

"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor 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." (NRSV)

This is instruction for the people of the Thessalonian church who are under the leadership of others. How are they to act toward those leaders? With respect, great esteem, and love. Paul adds, "Be at peace among yourselves." It occurs to me that peace -- shalom, which is overall wellbeing -- is not so much a separate command as it is a description of the community that respects, greatly esteems, and loves its leaders.

Paul is issuing these instructions not to keep the people of the church under control, but so they will enjoy shalom. There is nothing that destroys peace more quickly than a group of people backbiting against their leaders. What Paul is saying is that it is good for us to respect, esteem, and love our leaders. And why is he issuing this instruction? Because maintaining that kind of attitude toward our leaders is so difficult.

In today's world, we talk a lot about how to make the church more attractive in a post-Christian age. How about making our churches look more like Paul's portraits of the church? How about beginning with our behavior and attitudes toward our leaders? Respect, great esteem, love, and being at peace with one another... now that's attractive.

More to come on 1 Thess 5...

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