Principle #2 – Lead a Loving, Quiet, Hard Working, Gracious Life
This second principle comes from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. A little background may help us to see things a little clearer. When Paul preached the gospel to the Thessalonians, they received it with great joy as they turned from their sin to Jesus Christ. Very soon afterward though, this city became known for its persecution of Christians. Paul was followed from this city to the next one in which he preached the gospel. It was there that the people antagonistic to the gospel convinced the people of that city to drag Paul outside the city and stone him. So one thing we should remember here. We are nowhere near the kind of difficulty that the Thessalonians faced as Christians. But Paul’s godly counsel from God was perfect for them – as it is for us as well. That counsel was that the believers live a loving, quiet, hard-working, gracious life.
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)
The core principle here is a fascinating one. The Christian, according to this passage, is to have loving his or her brothers and sisters in Christ as a major goal in life. That would make sense because Jesus Himself gave this to us as His new commandment (see John 13:34-35). In fact – this is the one thing the world will be able to see and know whether we are His disciples or not – by our love for one another.
Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about being ambitious! What kind of ambition should they have? Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. That almost sounds contradictory. When Paul speaks of a quiet life – he is not saying that we should never say anything – because that would be contradictory to God’s call for us to share the gospel. But what God is saying here is that we should speak in a way that is not filled with conflict, anger, and hostility. That is what the Greek Word for “quiet” here implies. Well, that gives us a tremendous amount of godly counsel doesn’t it? Saints, the current political dialogue on both sides is pretty filled with anger, rage, conflict, and resentment. It would be wise for us to check our hearts before speaking (or posting for all of us who are on social media) to make sure that we are not reacting out of the very attitude God wants us to avoid. Should we speak up for righteousness – absolutely! Should we speak up for the gospel – definitely! Should we comment on every post we see that opposes what we believe or think on social media – or in every conversation we have – ummm – not so much.
The next admonition is to attend to our own business and work with our hands. I know one thing that would cut down on all the marches and protests we are seeing. That is for people to be busy working hard – especially when we are working with our hands. Oh, and by the way, when it says working with our hands, I don’t think that means typing away our last snappy response on Facebook, twitter, or whatever you’re on at the moment. Good old-fashioned hard work never hurt a society. In fact – the lack of it usually means people have too much time on their hands to have their hands doing something productive. Twice Paul gave an admonition for the believers in Thessalonica to be attending or minding their own business. We need wisdom and discernment to know when our actions are helping others – and when they are just meddling in other people’s business.
At the risk of being accused of “meddling” myself, I want to offer a few questions for us as I close out this article. First and most importantly, how are you doing in loving the believers around you? Begin with the church you currently attend, and then move out to other believers you know. Second, are you a busybody – politically? The current political monologue from both sides is just itching for a fight. Does it seem like you are being constantly pulled into that fight – and I mean from either side. By the way, I used the term “monologue” because, let’s be honest, very little of what is being said lately involves any kind of dialogue. Our daily news resembles more of a gossip circle than it does a news cycle. How caught up are you in it? Let me go at it from a different angle. How’s your blood pressure when it comes to political discourse? On a much more palatable note – do you work hard? When it comes to outsiders who do not know Jesus – are you still able to witness to them – or has your participation in the current political monologue made it to where they don’t want to hear a thing you have to say? How well are you noticing the needs of others around you lately? Are you still able to see hearts and hurts in folks – or has life become more of a “me vs. them” thing – however “them” is defined for you? Are our lives seen by those around us as loving, quiet, hardworking, and gracious – or – has the current climate co-opted you into being an angry participant in one side or the other of whatever the latest debate has become? Saints – we cannot let ourselves be so pulled into this mess that it prevents us from being an effective witness for Jesus. May our actions be such that we can say what we believe on other matters in such a way (and with such a brevity) that we can make a beeline to the gospel. It will take a great deal of wisdom – and often a wiliness to just be quiet. But if I remember a certain proverb – it reminds us that, “He who wins souls is wise!” May that wise person be us!