What It Comes Down To
In the end, Christianity is all about the hard work of love, how we learn to treat one another out of that love. This is what Paul is challenging the Thessalonians, and us, to reflect on here. He knows that the Thessalonians already know this because of the gospel teachings they have come to believe in and live by, but it is always good to be reminded. He says to them: “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more…” (verses 9-10)
Yes, most of us try to love one another, even when it is sometimes difficult. But is it not also true that we could be better at it, practicing it more and more? Can we not always improve? The grace is there for us. We have the right equipment, given us by God. What else is needed then? Attitude. Attitude means everything. It is one thing to say that we love, it is another to live our love as Jesus commanded us to. He set the bar very high for us, for he commands us to love one another in the same manner that he loved us. That is where attitude is important, because Jesus’ love for us was not easy. Indeed, it remained faithful even through suffering. His love for us was marked by suffering. We must develop that attitude as well. We must love, even though it may cause us great suffering. We must develop an attitude of love, to replace any and all selfish attitudes that may prevent us from loving as Jesus loved us.
What does Paul mean by having an ambition for a quiet life? The quiet life is a life of humility. It does not seek fame, or honors. Love should be like that. If our souls are quiet within us, we will be able to love, even through our suffering, without expecting anything in return. When Paul says “mind your own business,” he is not saying it in the tone that we are used to in these days. There is none of the radical individualist arrogance of our relativistic and selfish age in this phrase from him. Rather, it carries the meaning of “do your duty,” be responsible to yourself and to others. That is the “business” you are called to as Christians. It is not for our sake alone that we mind our own business to become better Christians; it is for the sake of God and others that we should mind our own “business” of growing in our Christian love. It is in this that our love will bear fruit.
What does Paul mean when he says work with your hands? We have been given gifts and we are to use them in the proper way, for their proper purposes. Life is difficult. We must work for our living. But work gives us dignity too. Work is hard, but hard work well done gains respect. Paul is giving a basic lesson in Christian economics here. This may seem a bit naive in the modern world with its materialistic and individualistic self-centeredness, with its growing separation between the haves and have-nots. The Holy Spirit is no materialist. Those separations between rich and poor existed in Paul’s time as well, but in these early Christian communities the poor were understood to be part of the community, their dignity was as important as any others. It is the Christian community’s job to provide opportunities for work for everyone. We are to create opportunities that will incorporate the skills and talents of everyone in the community. Those who cannot take care of themselves because of illness, or age, or intellectual or physical conditions that make it difficult to work, we are to care for together. Yet even these can be given work of some kind, even if it is as seemingly simple as that of praying hard for the rest of us every day. In this way all may feel that they are contributing members of the community.
Lord, we pray that you give us the wisdom to lead quiet lives, to mind more and more that which is our own business, that is, to become more and more truly Christian in our love toward all. Give us the strength to work hard at this business every day. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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