1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 Paul exhorts the church on how to deal with difficult people. And ignoring the problem is not the right answer! “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” This is not merely suggestions, but guidance that is urgent and serious and vital to the health of the church. Paul us urging the church to take action, and he gives specifics on what to do and how to handle different areas of disfunction in the body. This is not one size fits all but rather specific to the exact situation and circumstance. And it is to be done out of love!

First Paul addresses the idle (or unruly in other translations). The word here describes someone who breaks rank and marches out of step in a military sense. They are doing their own thing their own way. They are out of order and disruptive to the rest. This is the self-willed person who simply demands to hold his own opinion or preference. These must be warned.

Paul moves on to address the fainthearted. The word literally means small-souled. By nature or experience they tend to be timid and lack courage. These need comfort – in the sense of assisting strength – to be brought to them. It is our job to encourage them to speak up, to get involved, to step forward and be part of the activities of the Body. We need to work to get and keep them involved in the ministry.

Paul next addresses the weak who must me helped and upheld. They need assistance to build up their own strength and become able to handle life on their own, not build an ongoing dependence for assistance.

And then Paul summarizes what is probably the most important part of this exhortation to deal with those who are difficult and need help – he tells us to be patient with all of them. It is through different approaches with each of the three groups described, yet patience is needed with all. This is because true Christianity is shown by its ability to love and help difficult people. We do not look for only perfect people to minister to and to minister with. We are willing to reach out and help anyone in any way needed at any time.

Paul wraps up this little segment by reminding us that as believers, we must never seek revenge or vengeance against anyone at any time. God is the only one who holds that place. “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Our one and only goal is to pursue doing good to all people. We must have a heart of forgiveness to all and as we give that forgiveness, it is good not only for them, but for us as well.

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