“We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to ‘like’ one another. Love governs the will: ‘liking’ is a matter of sense and sensibility. Nevertheless, if we really love others it will not be too hard to like them also.
If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold impersonal ‘charity’ that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.” Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
Comfort one another. I Thessalonians 4:18; I Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:4; II Corinthians 1:4
A recurring theme in Paul’s writings is the need for believers to care for, exhort (encourage), comfort one another. God calls us to fellowship, and the fellowship of believers is to be a haven in a hostile world. Accomplishing this is easier said than done, but Paul gives valuable direction in this letter to the church.
First, we are to honor those who work in and for the fellowship (5:12-13). We are to recognize their needs and provide support. While leaders are called to be servants, the fellowship is called to provide support for them.
And we are to ‘be at peace among ourselves’. The leaders should not be referees in an ongoing struggle for preeminence or selfishness. We are accountable for our actions and how we treat each other.
Second, we are to look out for all of the brethren (verse 14), not just those we like or those who can serve us. The unruly and the fainthearted and weak are specifically mentioned here, giving the indication that the fellowship will include a spectrum of personalities and abilities. We are to practice accountability and service. The summary statement of ‘be patient toward all men’ leaves no one out – not even the person one finds annoying.
Verses 11 – 14 tell us what we are to do in the fellowship;
Verses 15 – 22 tell us how to accomplish the tasks.
As we read through the directions in these verses, we find they describe a lifestyle, not a just a moment in time.
- Don’t repay evil with evil; follow good.
- Pray without ceasing.
- Give thanks in every situation (this is not for every situation but during every situation).
- Don’t quench the Spirit (Don’t be unresponsive or disobedient to the Holy Spirit).
- Don’t despise the preaching of the Word.
- Test all things (not everything that sounds good is good – check everything against God’s Word); cling to the good.
- Abstain from the very appearance of evil.
When believers are busy living with joy and thanksgiving and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, there is no time for discord; and should a disagreement arise, there will be no fertile ground in which it can grow.
These directions and encouragements are followed by Paul’s prayer for the church:
I Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you a part of a local body of believers with whom you worship and practice accountability for your Christian life? How are you operating in the body to honor and glorify Christ? Who needs your comfort today?