What is a true test of love? Men like to give chocolate, flowers, and even a nice dinner to demonstrate love. I’m sure my wife would love all those things. However, when it comes to building blocks in the Christian life, we must have a love for the church. How exactly should we show love to the church?
1. Support the Weak
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.—1 Thessalonians 5:14
The first question would be, who exactly are the weak? Is this talking about someone who is physically frail? Is this someone who just isn’t strong? In the context of the church, I think there are two possible answers and perhaps Paul has both in mind here.
The first way this phrase could be used is to refer to a less mature believer, one that Paul designates as “the weaker brother.” If you study Romans 14–15 you realize that in the early church there was a problem about eating meat. In the pagan culture, the meat from animals offered to pagan deities was often a better quality. In fact, it could be purchased cheaper than meat from the common market.
Mature believers understood there was nothing wrong with that meat. However, less mature Christians who came out of that pagan culture were offended in their consciences by having anything to do with it.
The second way this phrase could be used is to refer to a believer who stumbles with habitual sins, the morally weak. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you struggle with this now. One of the reasons we struggle like this is because we struggle alone. We do not depend on one another. We do not trust one another. We do not open up and share out struggles with others who care and will help us.
In both cases, the “weaker brother” needs some help. How should we support the weak? We need openness, prayer, and accountability. In other words, if you have a weakness involving seemingly unconquerable sin, seek help. These are instructions for the whole church.
2. Be Patient with All
Be patient toward all men.—1 Thessalonians 5:14d
Patient literally means “long to wrath” or “long-suffering.” It carries the idea of bearing long with someone. To whom are we to be patient? We are to be patient “with all.” You might be thinking, “Well, you do not know who my coworker is. If you did, there is no way you would be patient with them!” There are some people who try our patience. They irritate us. They get under our skin.
Here is what this statement means: to love the church is to be patient with everyone in the church, especially that person you may be thinking of. Why? Because God is at work in his or her life just as He is in yours.
To be a growing Christian means you are becoming more like Christ, and He loves the church in its totality. Remember love is not an emotion; it is a choice that we make.
3. Pursue What Is Good
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.—1 Thessalonians 5:15
This verse contains both a negative and positive side. The negative statement says, “Do not return evil for evil.” Render means “to pay back.” When a person does something evil or sinful against us, we must resist the fleshly urge to strike back or seek revenge against that person we perceive to be our enemy. We are never to seek our own vengeance, but trust the Lord to deal with him.
The positive statement says, “Do pursue good.” When we plot and scheme, our mind becomes weighed down. Our emotions are plagued by unresolved anger. We do not think clearly, and we are certainly not walking at peace with the Lord. It is not our job to judge the sins of others; it is God’s.
We are to love what Jesus loves. His first love is the church. How should we express our love to the church? First we need to support the weak. Second, we need to be patient with all. Lastly, we need to pursue what is good.
Aren’t you glad that someone supported you when you were weak? They extended patience toward you when it wasn’t easy. We are all growing closer to Christ so we must do good to all!