Family Life, Family Love
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Intro: During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.
"Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub."
"Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup."
"No." said the Director, "A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?"
-Well, I don’t know if you consider yourself normal or not, but in our passage today Paul lays out some normal expectations for followers of Jesus. And yet we are tempted every day to do what is abnormal for a Christian. Instead of loving one another, we are tempted to get grouchy and irritable and snap at those around us. Instead of growing, we sometimes want to withdraw from others and become ingrown. And instead of staying focused on living our lives to please the Lord, we often get overly busy, distracted, and caught up in everybody else’s business. Sometimes we even get lazy, expecting others to cover for us while we do our own thing. Most of us have been guilty of some of these at one time or another, so I don’t think they will be completely foreign to us as we look at them today.
-As we do life together as part of God’s family, we want to be sure we are loving and living the way He wants us to live. Let’s take a look at what that means.
1. God teaches us to love fellow believers
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
-This is a family love Paul is talking about. He uses the word philadelpia, which refers to a brotherly or sisterly love. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen families where there wasn’t a whole lot of this to go around. But in God’s family that should not be the case. Why? Because God teaches us to love each other!
-Romans 5:5 God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Love is the result of being changed and led by the Holy Spirit. Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. When we call on the Lord and ask Him to forgive us and become the leader of our lives, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us. As human beings, we were created for the presence of God! Paul calls our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit. Together we are the temple of the living God!
-No wonder there is a supernatural change that takes place when we receive the grace and forgiveness of God! No wonder the Bible describes us as new people! God’s presence changes us and one of the first things that should change is our ability to love.
-Maybe you were driven by anger and you had a chip on your shoulder, but when you came to Jesus you found that fostering a nasty attitude was not in keeping with the life of God inside of you. That doesn’t mean that every angry thought just went away. But hopefully, you began to use what the Holy Spirit had put in your heart instead of stirring up the bile that was part of the old you.
1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” Our ability to love changes when we receive the love of God!
-So this is why Paul can say, “I don’t even need to write you about loving one another, because God teaches you that from the git go!” Now, I believe that Paul is using a literary device to encourage them in a positive way while also clearly reminding them that they have a moral obligation as a Christian to love one another. What he is saying is that it is the responsibility and privilege of all believers to be like their Daddy (God) and to show love to the rest of the family. But we can’t stop there! Paul takes it even further in v.10, which brings us to the 2nd point.
2. God wants our love to keep growing
1 Thessalonians 4:10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
-How could the Thessalonian Christians love their spiritual family throughout the region of Macedonia? They had suffered persecution themselves because of their faith in Jesus. Perhaps they had been able to pray for and give encouragement to other believers in nearby cities. Maybe they had collected an offering and had shared it with those in need.
-Persecution of Christians often involved a hit to a person’s business or their hireability. Some of their own people refused to trade or buy or sell with them and they would not hire them because of their Christian faith. As Christians all around experienced this, it became important for them to encourage one another and help each other out when needed. And Paul commended them for their love for the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But he challenged them not to stop or settle.
-He urged them to show love to their extended spiritual family more and more. In other words, don’t stop now! Crank it up! Be more loving, more generous, more responsive to the needs of those in your spiritual family.
-And that is a good word for us! It is one thing to give to a cause, helping provide disaster relief and aid to those in need. But it is another thing to get personally involved in someone’s life, showing them love by entering their pain or problem and helping them in whatever way you can. Find ways to keep your love alive and growing! Love needs an outlet, or it can dry up! Sometimes I find myself more focused on what I cannot do than what I can do! It may not seem like a very big deal to express love to those in your spiritual family, but every bit helps! Little is much when God is in it!
3. God wants our spiritual family to grow
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
-Growth, both personally and as a family, requires overcoming these life-draining trends
• Simplicity vs. being overly busy
-To live a quiet life is the answer to the problem of restlessness. The word “quiet” speaks of the end of conflict, of peace after warfare. Be ambitious, Paul says, to live quietly. We need these words because our ambition tends to be noisy, to make a splash, a name, to get ahead, to rise above the crowd. Eugene Peterson in The Message translates this phrase with two words: “Stay calm.” (Brian Bill)
-A quiet life comes from my comfort with God. Have I experienced God enough to be secure in Him?
Have I experienced God enough to both accept Him and realize that He accepts me?
Have I experienced God enough to be familiar with Him and His nature?
-This is all part of our journey in Christ. I will always be in a state of flux. Always getting more comfortable in Him. Always getting more accepting of Him. And always becoming more familiar with Him. (Guy Glass)
-These 3 areas seem to flow together with some overlap. In one sense the opposite of living a quiet life could mean always stirring things up within the family. If you’re so bored that you can’t find anything else to do but create drama and high blood pressure for those around you, then something is out of alignment in your life. And that’s why Paul gives them the big MYOB!
• Personal Responsibility vs. gossip & meddling
-To mind our own business is the answer to the problem of being meddlesome. Almost no one appreciates a busybody. Here are three signs that you may have crossed the line of genuine concern for someone and have started meddling:
You base your happiness on what others do or say.
You repeat your advice over and over hoping to convince someone.
You judge others on whether or not they do what you say.
-Listen, you cannot be a control freak! There are two things wrong with this:
First, busybodies violate the principle of individual liberty given to every Christian. Each of us will stand individually before God someday. Since you’re not God, don’t try to play God for someone else.
Second, busybodies spend so much time worrying about others they neglect their own lives. You end up losing all sense of values. You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. You become an expert at seeing the speck of dust in your brother’s eye while ignoring the log in your own eye. (Brian Bill)
2 Thessalonians 3:11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.
-Paul is not telling the church to avoid fellowship and contact with each other, but simply not to become a burden to each other.
Proverbs 25:17 And when you find a friend, don’t outwear your welcome; show up at all hours and he’ll soon get fed up.
Proverbs 25:17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house-- too much of you, and he will hate you.
-The issue is idleness, not ability. All of us are equal under God. All of us are not equally talented based on each other’s unique gifting.
-It is possible that some of the Thessalonian Christians had given up work, and were becoming a burden on others because they thought the Lord was coming so soon that they didn’t need to work.
-They needed to be minding their own business, not sitting around investigating everyone else’s business.
-The Lord does not want to find us idle when He returns! He said to occupy ourselves in doing His will until He comes. (Guy Glass)
• Diligence vs. dependency
Work is actually a gift from God! Work is not part of the curse. Work is a blessing.
-The Greek people looked down on manual labor – suited for slaves
Paul here dignifies working with your hands. He did as a tent maker
-Working shows the desire to provide for your own needs. Your diligence allows other to respond to your needs with joy instead of apprehension, wondering if they will need to support you forever. (Guy Glass)
-So Paul lists these problem areas that can stunt our personal growth. But they can also limit the growth and health of the church family. Listen to some of the last words of this section: “Your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.”
-If a person is always stirring things up and meddling in other people’s lives, and on top of that are lazy and refuse to do anything to help themselves, are they going to win the respect of the people around them? Especially of those who are not yet following the Lord? One of my goals and prayers is this: “Lord, never let me be someone’s reason for missing out on life with You!” That doesn’t mean you will please everybody. But our daily life must reflect who Jesus is!
-Lord, let my daily life win the respect of outsiders, and draw them ever closer to You!
Conclusion: We are a spiritual family! We are not perfect, but we are in this together! We might show dysfunction from time to time, but with the Lord’s help, we are learning to love each other more and more, and show less and less of who we used to be! God Himself teaches us to love like that! We can love one another because He loved us first! And we can express love to one another appropriately! We can take a personal interest in the well being of each other, and seek to encourage and strengthen one another in our mutual faith. And as far as the growth inhibitors go, we can repent for being control freaks and trying to run somebody else’s life. That is not encouragement, that is coercion! We can repent of gossip and creating drama which distracts people from who God is and what He wants to do among us! And whether we’re retired, laid off, seeking employment, or blessed with gainful employment, we can work hard, serving the Lord and serving those around us who are in need!
-That’s life in the family of God! That’s how we roll! That’s how we love! Let’s ask the Lord to help us live and love in such a way that people will see Him in us!
-If you’ve prayed and asked God to forgive you and accept you as one of His children, then you are in His family! If you’re not yet a part of His family, but would like to be, we’ve been waiting for you! There’s a place for you to belong as we all learn to love like He does and get to know Him better. Will you ask Him to be your forgiver and leader?