14 November 2013

How to Love the Unlovely

I Thessalonians 5:12-18

Trying to love the unlovely ones in our lives can be exhausting and frustrating. Either they don't seem to appreciate it or they frankly don't deserve it, but that does not excuse us from our part. God commands us to act like His Son, but He doesn't do this without offering some means to such transformation.

The short verses at the end of I Thessalonians 5 are often quoted because they make for great notecard reminders or quick sidewalk encouragement. Here they are:

"Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
in everything, give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

But it's so important to look at them in context. So let's do that.

What is "this" in verse 18? ("...for THIS is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.") I'd always assumed it was "in everything, give thanks"; however, this is part of a larger sentence. This means that "God's will for you" is a combination of all three commands (rejoice, pray, give thanks) and is likely the most poignant of commands in this section. By following these, which is God's will for us, we can then tackle the other, more day-to-day and person-to-person orders. Verses 12-15 tell us to do some pretty hard things, super counter-cultural: appreciate teachers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone, and seek the good for even those who hurt you. To equip us to complete these difficult tasks, we must rejoice (remember Christ!), pray (maintain a continual communion with Him), and give thanks (focus on blessings).

In my own strength, I do the opposite of everything mentioned in verses 12-15, but it is God's will that I discipline myself to gain a more Christ-like heart by choosing joy, quieting my soul to pray, and being grateful. When seeing it this way, I feel so hopeful! I see the precursor to what usually feels so daunting and heavy (like loving the unlovely) and can work on these three areas to build up my own reliance on Christ--so that He can then work through me. 

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