Paul closes out this first letter to the Thessalonian church in these verses; the NIV calls this his “Final Instructions” yet somehow to me at least, that doesn’t quite describe it. It might be that in a technical sense, these are indeed “instructions”, but if that is true, they are nor the sort of instructions that we can very well check off on a “to do” list. To me, this reads a lot more like a recipe pr a formula.
This reads to me like the recipe for brotherly love, or the formula for a church community of unity and selfless service. No, “instructions” just doesn’t quite do it for me.
In verses 12-13, Paul admonishes the people to love and respect their teachers and leaders in the Body of Christ, something that many would rather not do these days. In 14-15, he seems to be encouraging the people to put others first, even when that is hard, and even if that might mean saying what they do not wish to hear, always in selfless love. And then, Paul says this:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (5:16-18)
Why did Paul write this letter to the Thessalonians; do you remember? If you do, does this surprise you? Would you have written this to the Thessalonians?
If you don’t remember the reason for the letter, it was to encourage these mostly new Christians to hold onto their faith in a time of serious persecution. The recipients of this letter were being arrested, beaten, tortured, murdered… and Paul tells them to rejoice and be thankful!
Once again, our modern view might be a little different, for we have difficulty rejoicing and being thankful when someone is rude, or we don’t get something we wanted, but the Thessalonians were apparently made of sterner stuff than we.
Or… maybe they had a much better appreciation for all they had in Christ, and we are more oriented to comfort and convenience, and the things of this world; it strikes me that we might need an attitude adjustment, and I include myself in this remark.
Verses 19-24 are an exhortation to hold firmly to the faith, and he ends the letter asking for prayer. Taken in its entirety, this letter may give us a great deal to ponder and contemplate. Not the least of these ponderings should be about just how seriously we take our faith, and just how much more we can do to give Him glory on this earth, in our own communities. I will admit to you, dear reader, that as daunting a task as this may be, I am thankful for having read this amazing letter, for as I write, it is my number one tool in the never-ending fight against complacency in the faith.