9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.
11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
– 1Thessalonians 4:9-12, NLT
* * *
The end of this past week was hard for me here at IM. I’ve mentioned a few times before that I don’t like to write about contentious cultural issues like homosexuality. I always feel like I’m getting tongue-tied and not saying what I really mean. The discussion moves beyond my ability to control it quickly. It’s so easy to be misunderstood when talking about volatile issues and entire conversations can get unhinged and go haywire in a second.
I apologize if I offended anyone. I think some of the comments we received were out of order too. I have a much more lenient moderating policy than Michael used to have, and I’m sure he would have been riding the delete button this week much more strongly than I did.
I sincerely hope that the wild and woolly place this becomes sometimes hasn’t scared too many more reserved and timid readers away.
So today I thought it would be good to do a reset.
Let me share with you what I’m really all about. Allow me to open the curtains and let you see inside the window of my heart of hearts. Let’s set aside our wrangling and wrestling over issues for a moment and review a fundamental perspective that I hope will always remain at the center of who I am and what this blog tries to be.
My life and witness as a Christian is to be lived out primarily
in a way that is local, quiet, and pastoral.
One of the most neglected yet sorely needed texts in the New Testament for our day is 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 (above). Note two simple observations about it:
- The subject is how to excel in love for other Christians (v. 9-10) and how to win the respect of those outside the faith (v. 12).
- The instruction about how to do this is clearly delineated in verse 11: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”
According to 1Thessalonians 2, this was not only the instruction that Paul and the other apostles gave their friends in Thessalonica, but also the example they set for them personally (see especially 2:7-12).
Many of us find this harder to do in the media-soaked, illusory age in which we live.
We think the great issues of our day are what we hear about from public media. Without downplaying the importance of our civic responsibilities, I want to assure you that they are not. And even if many of these issues and concerns do carry great weight (on a certain level, of course they do), they are beyond the ability of most of us to affect unless we devote ourselves to a lifetime of engagement through public service of some kind. We will all have opinions about such matters, and we may be involved in trying to bring about change in relatively small ways, but the vast majority of people will focus their lives around their families, work, communities, and personal interests.
This, therefore, is the primary context for Jesus-shaped spirituality.
Not the latest “news” from the liberals and conservatives on cable news networks.
Not the latest issues trending on social media.
Not the grave culture war issues being promoted by Christian organizations and spokespersons on the left and right.
Not what’s happening in Washington, Hollywood, the Vatican, or in any of the seats of power and influence around the world.
Not the political “world,” the entertainment “world,” the sports “world,” or any other “world” out there that fights to get our attention and our dollars.
Too many of us have allowed voices from these “worlds” to infiltrate our worlds and convince us that they represent realms of real life that everyone should consider immediately relevant, think about, talk about, blog about, tweet about, update our statuses about, discuss at work, check constantly on our smart phones, and watch on other flickering screens 24/7.
Friends, this is not my life. This is not your life.
My life is the one I live with my family. My life is the one in which I do my daily work. My life is the one I live among my neighbors, my friends, in my community, with the people in my congregation and at the ball field. Because I’m a writer, the context of my life includes Internet Monk and the people I meet through participating in these daily discussions.
No matter how hard it is, I have to fight every day to keep the main thing the main thing, to recognize real life for what it is, and to let Christ live in and through me in that context.
To help me, I have clear apostolic instruction. Paul’s words to me are:
Be a quiet person, a person of peace.
Don’t stick your nose in places where it doesn’t belong.
Focus on the people you know and excel in love toward them.
Local, quiet, pastoral.
It’s the apostolic way.
How much healthier would I be, would you be, would the Church be if 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 defined our life and witness?