There is no perfect church, of course, but Paul gives us a glimpse of something close. Paul had established the church in Thessalonica. Later, he dispatched Timothy to see how the church was doing. When Timothy returned with the good news that the church was thriving, Paul sent the Thessalonians a letter to express his thanksgiving. Toward the close of the letter, he provided a message designed to help the church continue to bloom.
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” (I Thessalonians 5:12-15)
Paul was intent on encouraging the members of the church to care for each other. But don’t miss his instruction to the Thessalonians to do good “for everyone else.” Don’t be an insular group. Reach out to others.
His warning to the “idle and disruptive” wasn’t only for the benefit of fellow Christians. It was surely to guarantee that those outside the church didn’t think negatively about the church because of quarrels and bad behavior among Christians.
Paul finished this letter with a flourish: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit…May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-23)