You often hear the phrase, “The church is not a building, the church is a group of people.” While this is true, it does not begin to cover the scope or the depth of commitment that it takes to be a part of the church and to work together as the body of Christ. Ultimately, the church is a family with a common goal. As with any family, sometimes it can be difficult to work together and support one another. Families know each other and they know better than anyone what their brothers and sisters daily struggles are. Families see behind the scenes and are brutally aware of each other’s faults. As a church family, sometimes we can get so focused on reaching the world that we forget other vitally important aspects of our spiritual walk with Christ, such as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, it says, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” One thing that stands out to me immediately is the use of the word “brothers” at the beginning of the passage. The use of that word indicates that the following passage, and the call that Paul gives, is directed at us, fellow believers and members of the family of Christ. As a family, it can be hard to support one another sometimes, and Paul knew this so he wrote us a guide to use to aid us in the difficult process of supporting our brothers and sisters. The passage goes on to tell us that it is our job to do several things.
First, we are to warn those who are idle or those who are not following through with their responsibilities. As the body of Christ, we all have expectations placed on us, such as the expectation to use the spiritual gifts that God has given us to serve, or the responsibility to tithe. When we ignore or forget about our duties, it can be easy to become complacent and miss the bigger picture and forget who is at the center of it all. It is our duty as the church to empower each other and help one another to remember our purpose so we do not become idle.
Second, we are to encourage the fainthearted. The Greek word for fainthearted means to “speak alongside” or offer support and comfort. Paul is directing us to offer support and aid those who need a gentle push to do new things, whether that be beginning to volunteer in a new ministry or evangelize to those around them.
Third, we need to help the weak. What this means is that we need to support those who are fragile in their faith. Often times, those who are fragile in their faith are more susceptible to temptations and sin and it is our job as a family to form a close relationship with those who need aid and prove instruction and encouragement towards glorifying God and away from sinfulness.
Fourth, we are expected to be patient with everyone. As anyone with an annoying sibling can attest, it is difficult to be patient, especially with those we are closest to. Paul encourages us to be slow to anger and ready to forgive our Christian family as often as needed.
Lastly, we are told not to pursue retribution when we are wronged by one another. There is nothing as painful as being hurt by family and it can be easy to respond in an emotional fashion but Paul tells us that it is important to be slow to anger and quick to forgive.