What Are We to Do Then to Be Good, Practicing Christians?

If you have ever wished for a short, concise description of the proper attitudes that are a mark of the Christian life, look no further. Today’s passage is from Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians on how the Church should conduct itself. These are clear, simple instructions. We ought not only meditate on them, we ought to practice them until they become the habits of our very being. What are we to do then to be good, practicing Christians?

Paul starts with some of the realities of life that we all recognize: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (verse 14) Are these not familiar parts of life? How many times have we seen the effects of idleness and disruption in our family, community, and Church lives? Indeed, have we not, at one time or another, been guilty of laziness or disruptive, angry behavior? Have we not had our weak moments in the faith? It is a matter of Christian charity to “warn” those who are acting so. In fact, it is an act of love. In doing so charitably, with patience rather than with an attitude of superiority, we give each other a chance to see ourselves as if in a mirror. Indeed, would we not want to be so warned? When we are given the opportunity to see our own faults in that clear light of patient charity and forgiveness, are we not moved from deep within to change our ways?

Next, Paul give us a variation on the Golden Rule in today’s passage. “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” (verse 15) This is an irrefutable wisdom. Here is the hard truth of that wisdom though: That is how I am supposed to conduct myself, even when the other does not respond in like kind. I am never to be moved by revenge, for the truth about revenge is that it is never a solution. It is, more often than not, an escalation of the evil. Paul says that we are to be good, not just to our brothers and sisters, but to “everyone else” This is the very core of the concept of the Christ life. This is how we wish to be treated, is it not? Is this not how God treated us? Did he not command us to love one another as he loved us. In doing so, we are honoring Christ and we are participating in his life here and now. This is what the continuing salvation of the world looks like in real time, here and now.

Finally, Paul tells us how to do this. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (verses 16-18) These are the attitudes and actions of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. A Christian is one who is filled with joy at all times. This joy is a product of a deep prayer life, a life that is deeply rooted in the prayer and thanksgiving. Because we know that God’s will is always for our good, even in the difficult and trying things that happen to us in life, we can be joyful in all circumstances. It is a matter of faith, is it not? Our joy is in the fact that Christ is with us in his Holy Spirit always and everywhere, in the good times and in the times of trial. Are we not always in awe of this? God is good and, in entering our humanity in Jesus Christ, he has called us back to the good image and likeness of Him that we were made in. What joy!

Lord, continue to grace us with joy. Keep calling us to prayer with you so that we can see the reasons for thanksgiving and joy in all circumstance. Help us to hold on to what is good, and to turn away from any attitudes that keep us from your presence. We ask all of this in the power of your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.