We have reached our twentieth day in the Countdown and the fourth Sunday of Advent.
Our focus verses today give us instruction on how to treat others in the faith.
We ask you, brothers and sisters, to warn those who do not work. Encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.1 Thessalonians 5: 14
It is my understanding that some in the Church at Thessalonica were assuming Christ would return any minute and therefore there was no need to be employed. They would just bide their time living off of the efforts of others because in a day or two, what would it matter?
Paul is clearly instructing them and us that while we do not know the exact hour of His return, our work here on this piece of real estate is important and ordained by God. The efforts of our labor have a meaning and purpose and are part of our obedience to Him.
I am also struck by the exhortation to encourage those who are afraid.
During this pandemic, many of my friends have commented about the fear we see in the eyes of so many people. Masks covering much of the face don’t help, but often when you look into the eyes of others you see raw panic.
I hear it in comments made and I believe it has been fueled by media for purposes beyond my understanding. Fear has often been used as the motivator for following procedures that are good and some of us have wrongly proclaimed that we will not abide with fear so have refused wisdom. I think Paul would scold us for that.
Others are afraid of what this pandemic will mean to a business they rely on for income for the family. The future is daunting if restrictions continue. There are those who relied on an income that is now considered “non-essential” and yet the paying of rent or mortgage, utilities and food is extremely essential to their loved ones. Their fears are founded, but we know that we do not live in fear.
Moms and dads are wondering how their single adult children are faring as they are isolated in work-from-home settings. A newly pregnant woman wonders how she can carry her baby safely while she makes visits to the doctor and lives life feeling exposed for two. People are afraid their elderly family will not make it and the last hug they gave them was back in March.
Listen to Paul’s urging. Don’t mock or defy or chastise those who are afraid, but encourage them. The whole tone of Paul’s letter has been one of considerate love. He likened our care for one another as that of a nursing mother. The tenderness and gentility of the love we should have for one another couldn’t be more kind than a mother holding her infant close to her to provide both love and nourishment.
Some of us are feeling strong and faith-filled during this. We have found the isolation an opportunity to grow closer to God. This is wonderful, but use that to tenderly reach out to those who have found their comfort in food, old habits, shopping, entertainment…whatever they have reached out for that will never bring them the peace that you have found in knowing Christ more. Share that.
Share the love and hope you have in knowing Him. Pray for opportunities to lift someone up. Ask God to give you names of people who need a call, card or text that reminds them they are loved dearly.
And be patient. Long-suffering. Willing to go the extra mile for one another. We are all in different places of processing what this year has been. Let’s extend grace upon grace as we have received grace and mercy from the Father.
Blessings on you this Fourth Sunday of Advent.
You are dearly loved.
So let us love one another