One of the things I love about the Bible is how relevant it is to my 21st-century life! The Bible not only teaches us how to have a relationship with God but shares insights on our interpersonal relationships.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul speaks about love, our relationships with others, and what happens when we die. If there was a New Testament writer who understood love, it was Paul. He wrote an entire chapter on “love” to the Corinthian church.
- Love is more than an emotion.
- Love is a tangible expression that can be quantified.
- Love is more than words.
- Love is defined by action.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:15
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Love is an identifying characteristic of Christians and the church. It’s also the one quality that God used to define himself as, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8. Whenever it is within your power to demonstrate love, do it!
Learning to love is a never-ending discipline. D.M. Martin
Paul shares three more disciplines to aid us in our interactions with others. The command is given in the present tense which means it is continuous, unending, on-going, to do without ceasing. The first two go hand in hand.
#1 Aspire to live quietly.
#2 Mind your own affairs.
To aspire to live quietly was not a command to be silent about your faith, nor to avoid building relationships with other people but to not cause problems with others.
When you pair this with “mind your own affairs,” the meaning becomes clearer; “stay out of others Kool-Aid.” Stay focused on working out your salvation and let others do the same. Don’t feel the need to teach people to live like you but teach the Word.
#3 Work with your hands.
This was a charge against laziness. He was not instructing people to give up their desk jobs and go find a manual labor job. If you’re physically capable, then use your hands constructively.
Laziness leaves a negative impression on those in the world. Paul is concerned with how the world perceives Christians and the church. We are God’s representatives.
Laziness also wastes time. Time is one of God’s greatest gifts to us next to salvation. No one on their death bed wishes they had more money or greater success. They often wish for more time.
In verse 13 Paul transitions the conversation and appears to respond to a specific question from the church about death. There are 3 points we can infer from Paul’s comments.
- Death is inevitable.
- The memory of the dead will continue beyond their life.
- Death is not the end.
Paul uses the euphemism of sleep to describe death, which was common in most Greek writings of the day. No inference should be made from this expression.
“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8
Absent from our body means we are with the Lord. The moment you take your last breath on earth, as a Christian, you take your first breath in heaven. Just as sure as Jesus resurrected from the dead, so will those who place their faith in Him rise to new life.
Paul explains that the dead in Christ will rise first to meet Jesus as He descends from the clouds. This illustration contained a vivid imagery to the original audience.
During the time Paul wrote this letter, it was customary when a king or some royal dignitary approached the city for an envoy to go meet and greet them before the entered the city. Before Jesus touches down, we will be “raptured” up and meet Him in the clouds!
Paul concludes with a charge to “encourage one another with these words.” If a loved one has died but placed their faith in Jesus Christ, they are present with Christ and their bodies will be resurrected at the time Jesus returns.
As a Christian, we are called to love one another at every opportunity. Live quietly, mind our own affairs, and do not be lazy. You are Jesus’ ambassador.