March 18 - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18 - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

There are a lot of awful things that happen in the world, but I have to tell you, the devastation that occurs when a church divides among itself affects people in terrible ways.

I was pretty insulated from that kind of division while growing up.  Dad was a master at bringing unity to congregations.  He never spoke without thinking through everything and when he finally did speak, his words carried authority and came from a man people respected.  He was called to churches that were falling apart in order to begin the process of healing.  Where there had been discord and hatred, Dad sowed peace and love.

There were always a couple of tough years at the beginning of his ministry in any given community, but before long, Dad had earned the respect of his congregation and the local community. He dug in, worked long hours, spent time with the people and he was handy enough to do quite a bit of the physical labor around the church building and the parsonage. It wasn't difficult for people to honor him as their leader.

However, I was in for a terrible shock when it was time for me to move out of Dad’s churches.  I encountered congregations who had spent decades without strong leadership and the last person they were going to honor was the pastor.  At any given moment, he was questioned, criticized and denigrated for the decisions made.  On the other hand, many pastors I encountered and worked with were weak-willed, poorly educated and self-centered.  It was difficult to continue supporting and lifting them up when their spines turned to jelly at the first sign of conflict.

Paul tells us that we are to respect and esteem those who are in leadership over us. This is where we have to move past our own needs and desires and begin to look for God’s overall plan for our lives and the life of his congregation.  God calls us to be bigger than the problems in our local churches, to show the world what being a Christian is really all about.  It’s never easy and sometimes the best thing to do is to leave the situation, but in all things we are supposed to respect and esteem our leaders and be at peace with each other.

Being a Christian is not a simple task some days.