3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones…
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. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
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.
Paul prayed that the Christians in Thessalonica would overflow with love and holiness (3:12-13) and then he goes on to instruct them on how to do this, first in terms of holiness (4:1-8) and now love. I find this a bit funny, as Paul declares he does not need to write about brotherly love because they have already been taught to love each other (4:9). Not only do they love their brothers and sisters in Christ at the church in Thessalonica, but they have love for Christians all through the region of Macedonia. Think of it as not just caring for the Christians at your home church, but also for them through the state and the world.
Even though Paul does not need to write about this, he does (that is what I find funny). He urges them to love more and more (4:10). There is a profound truth here: no matter how much we love others, we can love more. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate love by dying on the cross for us, even while we were still in rebellion as his enemies. None of us have that kind of love for our enemies, let alone our friends, so we all may be urged to love more.
This love goes beyond simply our circle of Christian friends, it is a love that flows out among all those around us. As it flows to those around us, it looks kind of ordinary: a quiet life, minding your own business, working. But, without sounding cliched, in Christ the ordinary can become extraordinary!
I think this is a part of Christianity that gets overlooked. What Paul is doing here, following in the footsteps of Jesus, is affirming the value of work and everyday, normal life. Sometimes Christians speak as if God calls pastors and missionaries and everyone else is kind of on their own. The truth is that God has called each of you to a career (this is your vocation): business, teaching, engineering, science, writing, occupational therapy, law, etc. Not only are you called to what you will do, but how you will do it: do your job well, work hard, don’t gossip about your coworkers, be friendly. I believe as you live out your calling in normal, everyday, mundane life that you will be an example to others.
These verses struck me this week as Emily and I are moving into our house. Our calling is not just our career, but how we live at home, with our family and in all areas of life. We already met our neighbors on both sides: Dale and Nancy are an older couple on one side, Stacy and her daughter Madeline live on the other side. I know nothing about them (not true: I know Dale likes to make smoked meat). What example will my life of mowing the lawn, trimming trees, interacting with Emily, set for them? How can I allow the love of Christ to well up within me, to overflow and pour out on to them? I doubt that “living a quiet life” and working hard means preaching to them or handing them a tract. The emphasis for Paul here is not on making a new convert as quick as possible, but on trusting the Holy Spirit to work through us as we go about our daily lives.
So remember: you are called by God to be at PSU Berks. How do you study habits, your life, demonstrate the love of God? As you move into your career, how will your work habits demonstrate the love of God?
Paul says a similar thing in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and I leave you with that:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.