When it comes to Christian behavior, God keeps things real simple. He does not want there to be any confusion concerning how we are to be toward each other within the Body of Christ. One place, that is many times overlooked, that very simply lays out the basics of our relationship with each other is I Thessalonians chapter 5. After reminding the believers of the upcoming Day of the Lord, Paul begins addressing aspects of relationships starting in verse 11:
"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
Our first and foremost responsibility to each other is to comfort and edify each other. We all need comfort at times. Not only when a loved one passes away, but when we stumble and fall down so hard we break our nose in seven places. The picture of a loving mother picking up her injured child is the best way to define "comfort". It is soothing reassurances that ease pain and anxiety. Comfort also means to encourage toward a more worthy endeavor. Without question, we all need encouragement.
The word "edify" means simply to "build up". As believers, we should seek to never tear down each other but to build up each other through any means possible. An "edifice" is a strong building, and that is the basic meaning of edify-to build up and make strong. Comfort and edification are the first two things mentioned and form the foundation for all that follows.
"And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you."
Isn't it significant that God's Word specifically exhorts us to "KNOW" those who labor among us and are over us in the Lord. Unlike the military or many rigid organizations within the body of Christ, we are to know our "leaders". The NASB says that we are to "appreciate those who diligently labor among you". The Amplified Bible defines the word "know" as to recognize them for what they are, acknowledge and appreciate and respect them all. The implication here is that those who are "over you in the Lord" are working hand and hand with you not sitting in some pristine castle on a distant mountaintop.
"And to esteem them very highly in love for their works sake. And be at peace among yourselves."
We are exhorted to "esteem" or to hold in highest regard these same people who labor among us. We are to so highly esteem them IN LOVE because of their works. In appreciation of their selfless service, we hold those who are over us in the Lord in highest regard. A leader who gets down with the people and helps them rebuild a house or work on their broken car or clears brush from the land or helps set up and clean up after a big event; is a leader worth holding in highest regard and manifesting all the love of God in our hearts toward.
Respect is a privilege to be earned and not a right to be demanded. A leader can be feared if they have the power to punish; but a feared leader will never be respected. A true leader is one who is not afraid to work and who is the first one to offer assistance in time of need. Over the years I have witnessed countless young "leaders" waltz into a new position of leadership and "demand" the people respect him. This "newbie" will usually supervise everything but rarely actually work. His arrogance alienates the people and makes it impossible for them to "highly esteem him for his works sake" since he won't work.
Those charged with the awesome responsibility of overseeing God's people must never lose sight of the truth that their first job is to be actively compassionate and willing to do whatever is needed to serve. Those who are being overseen need to be thankful for the hard work of the overseer and esteem them highly for their work's sake, even if they have problems with their personality or mannerisms. The end result will be the ability to "be at peace among yourselves".
If the leader and the people are always at odds with each other, there will always be friction, tension and other counterproductive attitudes hindering the unity of the fellowship. It is interesting to see how the relationship between the overseer and the flock is mentioned before the relationship between believers.
"Now we exhort you brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."
Four gigantic exhortations that have to be near the top of the hardest things in life to do! The unruly refers to the disorderly ones. Those who are guilty of "disorderly conduct" need to be warned. The word "warn" means to admonish or to seriously advise. Those who are unruly or disorderly have to be confronted or their behavior will disrupt the entire fellowship. Keep in mind with all these things, this is not being addressed to the LEADER, but to every believer in the fellowship. It is our "job" as believers to admonish one another. I would pray that if I found myself "out of line" that another believer would love me enough to pull me aside and warn/admonish/seriously advise me to "get it together".
The feebleminded are not to be admonished or yelled at; but they are to be comforted. This term "feebleminded" means to be timid or fainthearted or to have little spiritual courage. Those who are in this state are feeble in their minds and need to be encouraged. Comfort can mean soothing the hurt, but it also can mean to encourage. Those facing situations they feel too big for them to handle need to be encouraged not yelled at or punished.
Those that are "weak" need support. Of course to be weak is the opposite of being strong. Those who for one reason or another are weak in the faith need support. A weak young tree needs to be "staked" so that it has support. When a football player injures his knee, you will see a couple of big linemen go out and carry him to the sidelines. One on each side "supporting" him so he can make it to safety. This is our attitude toward those who are in a weakened condition. We are not to get mad at people simply because they are too weak to support themselves.
As if the aforementioned things weren't difficult enough, the idea of being patient toward everyone is the hardest of all. This patience is referring specifically to being longsuffering and not allowing yourself to lose your temper. We all need others to be patient with us and we need to be extremely patient with others. As the saying goes, you never know what another is going through unless you've walked a mile in his shoes.
"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men."
The natural response to being wronged is to want to "pay back" the person who wronged you. As Jesus taught, do good to your enemies and "turn the other cheek". This is a hard thing to do in our culture. When someone screams at you, you want to scream right back. That's how arguments turn into wars. Not a day goes by where we are not tempted to "render evil for evil" for it is the world's "golden rule". Of all the exhortations is I Thessalonians 5, the whole idea of stopping the never ending cycle of "pay back" or retribution is certainly the most difficult.
Verse 16 is one of the shortest verses in the Bible. "Rejoice evermore." Our joy and rejoicing is to last forever and not for a day or two. The attitude of always rejoicing breeds a positive attitude and promotes peace and harmony within the body of believers.
"Pray without ceasing" in verse 17 means to pray upon every remembrance. No one can literally pray without ceasing, for that is impossible. We are to pray with great perseverance. We are to never give up when praying. Pray with persistence, patience and perseverance equals to pray without ceasing.
"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Three great keys to personal and collective well being; always rejoice, pray with persistence, perseverance and patience, and always give thanks. Rejoice, pray and be thankful; are the basic ingredients to a blessed life. Perhaps we need to develop a logo or something to post everywhere to remind us RPT, not "repeat", but rejoice, pray and be thankful.
"Quench not the Spirit, Despise not prophesying.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from all appearance of evil."
A wise believer does not accept everything he hears concerning spiritual matters at face value. A wise believer will "prove all things" in the sense of examining or testing things to see if they are good or bad. Whatever is "good", we are to hold fast to and whatever is not good we should disregard. This is especially true of prophesying and other spiritual manifestations. To "quench not the spirit" means to not do anything that would suppress the ability of the Holy Spirit to move whether in a person or among a fellowship of believers. As the NIV says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire".
One way to douse the Spirit's fire is to treat prophesying with contempt. Please look at the Amplified Bible's treatment of verse 20:
"Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning].
WOW, what a fantastic way to explain that verse! God placed the gift of prophecy in the Body of Christ to allow for prophetic revelations, inspired instruction and specific exhortations and warnings. Now that God has set this in the Body, he exhorts us to NOT spurn these gifts and utterances when spoken by the prophets. He then says to examine and test what has been said according to the standard of the Word of God and hold fast to that which is good.
Finally this section closes with the famous verse "Abstain from all appearance of evil". Boy oh Boy; if various ministers and other leaders would have simply believed this verse, they would still be serving today. It is unbelievable how many great people have seen their entire ministry fall apart because they thought they could circumvent this verse. Somehow the feeling of being invincible overrides logic and people end up doing foolish and horribly wrong things thinking it will never be discovered. No person who commits a crime ever expects to get caught.
We all have the responsibility of "behaving" in such a way as to give no appearance of evil. I guarantee if the appearance of evil is there, the devil will blow it up into a national scandal. We must always be thinking of the good of the Body instead of the good of "ME" when it comes to judging which actions are allowable and which are not. The general rule of thumb is simply; if it could be construed as evil, DO NOT RISK DOING IT. If God is right, there has to be way to do something which does not appear to be evil. Our job is to find that way and even though it is a hassle, do it the right way.
I Thessalonians 5 provides a simple handbook for a successful fellowship no matter what size or what denomination. If we will simply adhere to these principles, we can have harmony, unity and great compassion among ourselves. God really does keep the important stuff simple.
Thank you again for taking your time and posting such great explanation of this for us all.
You are certainly helping to comfort and edify me!
amen my brother, being in a church with alot of family,(bio) i want and expect to be treated with no favoritism. i attend my house of worship to serve god and be a servant.to be a blessing. it's not about me it's always will be about jesus...