“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.”
Two nights ago, just before falling asleep, I asked God to use me, to allow me to be His hands and feet in my day. I specifically prayed, “Lord, help me be loving, kind, gracious, and compassionate towards everyone I encounter tomorrow.” Maybe if I had prayed that prayer the morning of, instead of the night before, it would have been more effective, but all I can say is it took 10 minutes from leaving my house, that I was literally yelling at another driver on the road.
I refrained from flicking them off (aren’t I good?), but after shouting at them (like they can even hear me!) and showing my best “you’re an idiot” face, the Holy Spirit promptly thumped me on the head.
“Remember when you asked me to help you be loving, kind, gracious, and compassionate to everyone you encountered today?”
You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Not only did I fail within minutes of leaving my house, but I wasn’t just not extra-special loving or kind to the person I encountered, I was a downright B.
So, naturally, this morning my devotional prompted me to read over 1 Thessalonians 5, which includes the gem of a verse: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.”
It stopped me dead in my tracks.
THAT’S who I want to be: someone who comforts the discouraged (one translation says the fainthearted. I love that word.), who helps the weak, someone who is patient towards everyone.
But what is my immediate response to the first driver on the road who cuts me off– an insanely angry person!
Maybe my story is silly, and hopefully you’ll follow where I’m going with this, but I couldn’t help but notice the list Paul gave to the Christians in Thessalonica: admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.
He gave 1 corrective action with 3 encouraging ones.
Admonish the undisciplined. Some of you may turn your nose at that one, but I think a lot of us Christians, hear that command and forget the following three!
It’s so easy, as believers, to fall into the judgmental trap. We believe it’s our calling to judge everyone else’s behavior and correct them. Do we need to be speaking corrective truth into our friend’s lives? Absolutely. We wouldn’t be worth much as a good friend if we didn’t. There have been many times in my life where a friend said some things that were hard for me to hear, but I needed to hear them.
But my point is this: Paul gave us four things to do, one corrective and three encouraging. My road rage example just shows that my innate sinful gut reaction is to literally YELL CORRECTION out my car window. Obviously, I know that’s not what Paul means by “admonishing the undisciplined” but I think it shows that I am naturally more inclined to admonish, rather than to comfort, help, or be patient. I’m quicker to judge, correct, or be sassy, than to understand, listen, care, and comfort.
What about you? Are you more inclined to say a quick jab of correction or to be kind, compassionate, and helpful?
I realize Paul wasn’t giving us a formula, but I have to wonder: if he gave us a list of 3 encouraging behaviors and 1 corrective behavior, shouldn’t the amount of times I comfort, help, and extend patience far outweigh the times I admonish? And even when it is appropriate to admonish*, I’m still supposed to be patient– “Patience towards all” Paul wrote–even the “undisciplined!”
So, I have a new prayer for tonight (or perhaps better in the morning)– that I would be quick to comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone I encounter. And even when it is appropriate to speak hard Truth to a friend, that I would do it carefully wrapped in comfort, help, and patience.
As Lon Solomon would say, “not a sermon, just a thought.”
*After further research, I thought it would be worth noting that the Greek word for admonish is noutheteō which means to “to caution or reprove gently.” Even in our correction, Paul implied– always be gentle!