On a short list of Scriptures that come charmingly to mind from time to time, and comfort me when they do, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 is nestled in quite cozily and will not be dislodged. There the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica:
“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
So much recommends this passage. The affirmation of their love for one another at the outset; the encouragement to walk properly before outsiders and be independent at the close. This is kind and loving and practical and holistic pastoral care.
The context of the whole letter makes it all the more interesting to me, given that the Jewish and Gentile believers in this Greek port city were being persecuted by angry neighbors and “worthless men” who complained to the city council about them. As Acts 17:6 records, “These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here…”
That is to say that part of the impetus for Paul writing what he does to these brothers and sisters is that they stood accused by malicious slander of defying Caesar’s decrees for one simple reason. They named Jesus as their King.
So what does Paul tell them? “Aspire to live quietly” and “mind your own affairs” and “work with your hands” and “be dependent on no one.”
That is to say also that declarations of independence and the practical pursuit thereof can apparently be a very Christian response to ungodliness. And in part the goal is to “walk properly before outsiders.” That is, our Christian testimony is affirmed and demonstrated by practice, by the way we love one another in deed as well as word, and by being industrious and hard-working.
Sometimes people won’t listen. And when that happens, admonitions from our Lord to “not cast pearls before swine” may come into play, as well as instruction given to the disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” if the people of a given town or village don’t want to hear it.
Or, as Jordan Peterson put it in a recent video clip sent to me, “If people are not listening to you, stop talking to them… because you’re devaluing what you have to say by offering it to an audience that does nothing but reject it.”
But maybe the folks for whom talk is cheap will be won over by demonstrable acts of obedience to God and love for one another. Or maybe they won’t. Either way, a blamelessness and clear conscience serves God better than throwing good time, energy, and attention after bad in trying to win over by words folks who are being pig-headed.
On the other hand, we know from the Scriptures that obedience to God and service to one another must involve communication – of the truth, encouragement, instruction, correction, and coordination if we are going to work together well as the body. Even so, aspiring to live a quiet life working with our hands will positively influence the tone and tenor of what we say when we must say something. And there too God is honored and we serve one another only all the better.
This episode is sponsored by
· Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/garrett-ashley-mullet/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/garrett-ashley-mullet/support