If “actions” speak louder than “words,” “reactions” must be a full-out scream. Another day brings another personal resolution, a “next time that happens, I will certainly react like _____.” The next time comes, and the cyclical response that we hate so much becomes the uncontrollable reaction we commit, whether it is emotional, verbal, or even physical.
As Paul closes his epistle to the Thessalonians, he advises them on their “reacting.” In verses 13 through 15, he gives several instances of how we should handle the frustrating personalities with which we regularly interact.
First, Paul addresses our reactions to those who are unruly. Instead of angrily condescending, he admonishes the believers to warn. Just because someone is apathetic, rebellious, or even contentious does not entitle other Christians to enter the seat of Judgment, that seat is reserved for God alone. Lovingly, our reaction should be one that admonishes them, or warns them of the certain devastation that lies ahead on their road of recklessness.
Second, Paul tells us how to interact with those whom he calls “feebleminded.” These are the Christians who do not want to learn anything new. What they have heard is good enough, and it does not need to be corrected even if it is corrected by Scripture. Change is terrifying. Their theology is like a blanket, and no matter how moth-holes have been eaten in it over the years, it is still their favorite blanket and while they shiver they’ll assure you that it keeps them warm. Paul says, “comfort them.” You don’t have to take their blanket, just graciously, lovingly, draw up next to them and press in the truth.
Third, Paul encourages us to react with “support” for the “weak.” This is no doubt a reference to 1 Corinthians 8, and Romans 15, where Paul speaks of those who are “weak in faith.” The distinction between liberty and sin is very difficult for them to see. They do not have enough faith yet to trust that Christ has given them liberty in many non-moral areas. Their conscience, having been misinformed at some previous point leads them to think that things that are dangerous for them are intrinsically sinful. Paul encourages believers to respond in a way that is “supporting.” It is not the job of a “strong” Christian to fix every “weak” Christian. Rather, the reaction that the strong should have should be one of a loving understanding. It is the work of the Spirit to help the weak, it is the job of the strong to react in love.
Finally, Paul admonishes us to remember that God is the ultimate keeper of justice. There is not a wrong that He will not address. There is not an evil that He will ignore. There is not a revenge that we must take. In Deuteronomy 32:35, God claims, “to me belongeth vengeance, and recompense.” It is not our duty to return an eye for an eye. As Christians it is rather our duty to “overcome evil with good.” God will take care of His own. Our reaction should be one that demonstrates our faith in His Sovereign power.
Food For Thought: Read Romans 12:17-21. According to this passage, who should Christians respond to with vitriol and animosity?