My husband used to be a Lost fanatic. My neighbor introduced him to the television show, and he was hooked for several seasons of watching people trying to get off the island. Occasionally, I would sit and attempt to watch it with him but found myself snickering at the drama.
If you watch Lost, you have to be invested. You can’t catch a snippet of the program here and there and have a clue what is going on. It seems comical (at least to me) if you don’t understand all the intricate details and relationships. On this island, the lost people discover another group living there. They refer to them as “the others.”
None of us live in isolation. We all interact with neighbors, other parents, co-workers, coaches, friends, and family. Sometimes we find kindred spirits and make fast connections. Other times we rub each other the wrong way with our different personalities, communication styles, choices, and quirks.
We all have to learn to live with the “others” in our lives. In finishing 1 Thessalonians today, I find the apostle Paul had much to say to the people of the church at Thessalonica about how to treat others. Perhaps they were struggling in their relationships like we often do.
Over 40 times we find Paul telling the church to encourage others in his biblical letters. I believe he saw our tendency to get impatient, judge, and harbor relational strife playing out in the lives of the early believers and its detriment to the spread of the gospel.
At the end of 1 Thessalonians, we find his final advice to the church there. Verses 14-15 provide us with a concise framework for how we should approach the others in our lives.
“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”
How would life be different if we followed this advice?
Lazy people need – a warning. (Is it strange that my children come to mind as I think about this part? Or people in our country who don’t want to work but still want to paid?)
Timid people need – encouragement. (Is it so hard to tell someone they are doing a good job, look nice, or that we appreciate them?)
Weak people need – tender care. (Those who have difficult trials, troubled pasts, or bad habits often frustrate us. Often we want to give these people a warning, yet Paul says we are to give them tender care. That is what will infuse strength in them.)
Everyone needs – patience. (Uggh. Everyone. Really? Patience is not my strong suit. I move at two paces: fast and faster. This one convicts me the most.)
Then Paul clarifies that we don’t just treat the people we “like” this way. He says even those who have done evil to us – we should not pay back with evil. We are to “try” to do good to each other. I love it that God knows we struggle. He only asks us to try.
What a different place our world might be if we put feet to some of Paul’s advice. So who are the lazy, timid, and weak people in my life that need warnings, encouragement, and tender care? I pray God will use me to spur them on. I also ask Him to give me His patience with everyone. He modeled this for us according to 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”
God is patient with us and asks us to be patient with everyone else – all of the “others” in our lives today. This will be tested for me in the next few hours as I drive a car full of teenage boys two hours each way to a concert. I’m sure God has some “others” in your life to test His patience command with this week as well.