Revised Common Lectionary readings: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Our reading from the revised common lectionary is a passage from Paul to the church in Thessaloniki (and I won’t get into the debate about whether this was even written by Paul or by another leader in the Church).
Irrespective of authorship, some of the recriminations to the church are just as valid today as they were 2,000 years ago. He’s talking about the free-loaders. Those who are just along for an easy ride and are not pulling their weight.
Remember, the early church lived in community, where everyone’s needs were taken care of by the collective. So, they all poured what they had into the coffers and then the church took care of making sure that everyone received their meals and were cared for.
Nonetheless, there were some that Thessalonians says were living in idleness, being busybodies. I am sure that it was more than just “living in idleness” and being “mere busybodies” – because if you have ever worked in an office with a staff member that was idle and a busy-body, you know how that can drag the entire team down!
You get one person that is busy watching everyone else work and full of gossip and criticism of how the job is being done, and what is and is not right, and before long, you have two discontent workers, then three, and then four.
Rather than each person working quietly, each taking care of their own responsibilities and getting the job done, now you have negativity and complaints running rampant. And it all starts with one person feeling that they aren’t required to break a sweat like the rest.
The writer of Thessalonians counters this, saying I gave an example to imitate, by my own toil and labour. I worked night and day, so that others could see that no one is entitled and everyone should earn their own living.
This is a very practical perspective of living, even within the church – a look into human nature and what happens when we start to think that God will supply all of our needs, like Santa Claus, rather than looking to the nature of the Creator.
What does doing right look like from a spiritual perspective?
“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”– Harold S. Kushner
If we look at this from a more spiritual perspective, rather than the very practical one we find in Thessalonians, what can we find? How can we live better in community with each other and with the Eternal?
Connected with God and doing right
7 Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. 8 But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love.1 John 4:7-8 (TLB)
For starters, and it’s more than just a suggestion – we are called to BE loving and kind. Those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God.
Would the people that know you well describe you as loving and kind? I’m not talking about your personality, whether you are charismatic or introverted. I’m not even talking about how well you relate to crowds of people.
But, when you treat others, closely – how would those that know you describe you? Do you show that you are child of God simply by being loving and kind?
This doesn’t mean that you don’t exercise boundaries, or that you become a people-pleaser! You can be loving and kind and say “no, I won’t do that for you“. It does not mean that you have to be another person’s doormat, trampled on, in order to show you love them and are kind to them.
But if you are not loving and kind what are you filled with?
I’ve used this metaphor before – when you squeeze a lemon, lemon juice comes out. If you bump into someone, carrying a cup of coffee, they spill their coffee. And when someone knocks into you, what spills out of you? Is it loving-kindness?
World Kindness day
Wednesday, November 13, was World Kindness Day. The internet was alight with examples of how to practice kindness – random acts of kindness, small acts of kindness, and celebrations of kindness in the community.
But, as Christians, as those who claim to be children of the Creator, followers of Christ, we are told that we are to be filled daily with love and kindness.
Not as something that we celebrate one day of each year.
But that as a demonstration of this is who we are.
if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love1 John 4:8
How are you doing in your day-to-day life, showing that you are a child of God?
What does the Eternal ask of you?
No. He has told you, mortals, what is good in His sight.Micah 6:8 (VOICE)
What else does the Eternal ask of you
But to live justly and to love kindness
and to walk with your True God in all humility?
Other versions translate this as act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
It’s a really simple formula:
- live justly
- love mercy / love kindness
- walk humbly with your God
Take a moment for some true self-awareness. To see yourself as others would see you. As they might feel that they have been treated by you.
Would they say that you live justly? That you love mercy and kindness? That you walk humbly with your God?
In what ways do you need to allow yourself to change, to strip away the ego and the self, to allow transformation through the renewing of your mind to take place?
Hard lessons of spiritual growth
While it’s true that we are told to not be weary in doing what is right, in showing kindness, feeding the hungry and working quietly, there are two important lessons that I have learned and continue to learn.
The first is this:
Fill your cup – don’t try to do this in your own strength
The reason that we find ourselves short-tempered and failing at being full of loving-kindness is because we’ve gone back to ego and self. When we try to do it all through “toil and labour”, rather than from a place of being a child of the Divine – filled with Divine Love.
Consider the difference between: we are separate and “should” love, and remembering that we are filled with love and that this is what flows from us naturally. How much easier is it to just focus on being filled with the love of the Divine, allowing it to flow from us effortlessly, versus trying to do it as an act of our own strength?
If I am short-tempered and irritable – it’s not just about me fixing my attitude. The problem is MY attitude – that “separateness” from the Divine. When the ego and I began to play the game, rather than simply being a conduit of Divine love through me.
The solution is discovering where I got off track – at which part of the day did I fail to refill my tank? When did I start to do this in my own strength, rather than remembering that I am simply the vessel that holds the Divine within me?
And the second lesson is:
Show, don’t teach
This one is even harder. How often do you say to your children – “do as I say, not as I do“?
People aren’t so much interested in what we have to say, at least when it doesn’t align with what we do. They are more busy watching us, looking for the authenticity in our words and actions.
Can you walk the talk of kindness? Can you truly be loving, allowing the Divine to flow through you?
Show, don’t tell.
The challenge for all us of is to live a life of loving-kindness that is an example for others to imitate, each working quietly, doing justice and walking humbly.
What would that look like in your life?
How can you put this into practice today?