After talking about being ready for the Lord’s return, Paul gives us some instructions on how we as a church and as individual Christians are to live. And he starts with our relationships with each other.
In talking about our leaders within the church, Paul says,
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. (12-13)
How often do we take our pastors and other church leaders for granted? How often do we criticize them and disrespect them for their mistakes or failings?
The truth is, we all fail. We all could be subject to criticism if the spotlight were put on us. But while it is true that leaders are to be held to a higher standard, Paul tells us, “Respect your leaders. They’re working hard for you, probably more than you know. And don’t just respect them, hold them in the highest regard. And don’t just hold them in the highest regard, but do so in love because of all that they do for you, for God, and his kingdom.”
Why? Because the Lord is coming. We don’t have time to constantly criticize our pastors and leaders for every little fault they may have and every little mistake they may make. God will hold them responsible for what they do. He is their judge, not you. So instead of making their lives miserable, Paul says,
Live in peace with each other. (13b)
Remember that while they may be over you in the Lord, they are also your brothers and sisters. So instead of fighting against them, work with them as God leads them and you.
Paul goes on to say,
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (14)
Pastors and leaders in the church are not the only ones subject to criticism. Often times, others are too. And if they are truly in sin, Paul tells us we are to warn them.
For others, they are timid and easily intimidated by the Enemy in this spiritual war we fight. So encourage them. Stand and fight by their side. Help them be strong in the midst of their circumstances.
Others in the church are weak, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. And Paul says to help them. For they are our brothers and sisters too.
And for all these, we are to be patient with them, knowing that the Lord is patient with us too. God hasn’t given up on us. We shouldn’t give up on each other.
Finally, Paul says,
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. (15)
Even within the church, people wrong us. And it can be hard to forgive. But again, the Lord is coming. And we can’t afford to hold grudges and bitterness in our hearts. So Paul says to again leave judgment to God, and instead respond with kindness to those who wrong us.
And not only to those within the church, but to those without, that they may see the love of Christ and may be drawn to him too.
The Lord is coming soon. How are you treating your pastors and leaders? How are you treating your brothers and sisters in Christ? And how are you treating those people God has put around you outside the church?