December 22, 2014

Paul’s Disappointing Approach to the Christian Life

By Chaplain Mike

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

• 1Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NLT)

This may be one of the most neglected texts in the New Testament regarding the Christian life.

The context finds the Apostle Paul encouraging the believers in Thessalonica to live out their faith in Christ “in a way that pleases God” (4:1). After instructing them in the matter of sexual purity (4:3-8), Paul turns to the subject of how Christians should love one another (4:9ff). He reminds them that it is God himself who teaches them to do this, that they are already experiencing this in their lives, that he has heard reports of their loving practices and he encourages them to keep it up.

When it comes to the “how” of loving others, the Apostle gives us 4:11-12 (the text above). I don’t know about you, but when I read his instructions, it’s a let-down. I’m kind of disappointed.

• In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give a list of doable activities that one could perform on behalf of others to express love.

We have this thing about being “practical,” and we want to know the “steps” of “application.” We value creative ideas, instructions, a manual with directions to follow. We want to know which books to read, which videos to watch, which seminars to attend, which websites to consult, which counselor can help us make the breakthroughs we need to live this out more fully. Paul does not oblige.

• In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give examples or tell a story that touches our hearts about how someone showed extraordinary, exemplary love for another, how a person showed sacrificial generosity toward another—perhaps an unworthy recipient—and how God blessed as a result.

Perhaps the person who received love opened his or her heart to Christ. Or maybe the person who sacrificed received back abundant blessings from the Lord for showing such love. Maybe a marriage was saved, a prodigal came home, a life turned around. Perhaps a video clip would be shown of people extending themselves in remarkable ways to serve and bless others. But Paul gives no such heart-tugging motivational example or story.

• In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to exhort us about being more involved in the life of the congregation.

After all, how can your love for others grow if you are not participating with them in the fellowship of the church? Are you attending church regularly? Are you in a Bible study, learning God’s Word with others? Are you in a small group, sharing your life and praying with others? Do you have an accountability group to help you keep your motives and actions in check, so that you are staying pure and living a life of holy love? Are you actively partnering with others in Kingdom service? Paul does not point out any of these things.

Paul’s encouragement, instead, must seem remarkably lackluster and ordinary from the point of view of those who invest so much in spiritual engineering and technology, motivational methods, and churchianity.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

• 1Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NLT)

• Live a quiet life.

• Mind your own business.

• Work with your hands.

The best way to show Christian love to others? It almost sounds like a prescription for a small, selfish life! Yet this is how the Apostle, by divine inspiration, encourages us to live.

Paul commends a life that is the very opposite of activist churchianity. Instead, he advocates the way of Christian vocation—Walk humbly and quietly with God. Don’t think it’s your job to change the world. Quit sticking your nose in everybody else’s business. Do your work and do it well. Let Christ’s love for others grow naturally out of that soil. Earn the respect of your neighbors over time as you live your life in Christ. Slow down. Get small. Run quiet. Go deep. Grow up. Keep on keeping on. Stand on your own two feet. Become a mature human being.

Not sexy at all. Kind of disappointing.

Maybe the video will be more practical.

Comments

  1. DUDE!! I have totally thought the same myself!! MOST overlooked text!! I have NEVER heard a sermon that text, not have I ever even heard anyone other than myself bring it into a dialogue!! Thank you!! THIS is why I love this website!!

  2. Steve Newell says:

    This is there Luther’s understanding of vocation is most helpful. I am called to be a consultant in a software company as my vocation along with being a father, a son, and a husband. i am to like out my Christian faith in where God has placed me.

  3. Absolutely beautiful. I’ll be sending out links to this one post-haste. Thanks, CM.

  4. Yeah. I actually used this scripture on a post over at Charisma Magazine not so long ago. I like its succinct message with all the implications nestled within. Thanks for pointing it out to us…

  5. This posting made my day! I seem to faintly remember pastors of my childhood saying something similar.

  6. This might be a favorite verse, however, among artists who are also Christ-followers. It’s been a favorite of mine for many years, since I was earning my BFA. A fellow student earning her MFA in ceramics used it as an introduction to one of her shows.

    The part that has drawn me in is “work with your hands.” In many ways this is an affirmation, in an economic culture so overrun with desk jobs, of the things we do as crafters and creators. I can also see how it might appeal to the introversion that is common to the artist stereotype (although I don’t fit this stereotype myself), living a “quiet life.”

    Of course, also an affirmation for artists is the incarnation itself, which we celebrate during this Advent and coming Christmas. Indeed, there are other verses and passages artists can and should rightly latch onto, but this is probably chief among them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As “crafter and creator”, I spend two hours each morning writing and drawing. It’s the only time of day where I’m relaxed enough to keep the creative juices flowing.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    In a way, St Paul is being very Jewish:

    “Just LIVE.”

  8. Great post. I’ve had many of these same thoughts. There’s little focus on Christian vocation in evangelicalism. In fact, I can’t remember hearing a sermon on this really ever. And it doesn’t really come up in conversations about the faith. Tragically, it doesn’t seem to be on the radar, so it seems there’s a lack of knowledge regarding the depth and joy and service that is possible in this realm, or how it pulls down the barrier between the “secular” and the sacred by giving sacred purpose to vast parts of our lives.

    Both Dorothy Sayers and CS Lewis have some great essays touching on the topic of vocation, though the exact titles escape me right now. Worth reading if anyone wants to pursue. Sayers worked in advertising and had no trouble finding and writing about the sacred purpose she found in that vocation. Imagine if we had more believers in all fields of work who consciously, intentionally viewed their work as sacred vocation.

    • Amen! And let’s run some type of rational interference on those that aim to take control of society/culture in the name of God based on the 7 Mountains Mandate. That agenda/propaganda “of the Debil” in my opinion. Lord have mercy… :(

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        If the “Seven Mountain Mandate” is what I think it is (HT: Onward, Forward, Toward), it’s just the latest incarnation of Build a Christian Nation By Any Means Necessary (including force).

        Which in turn reduces the Gospel to Raw Power Struggle — who’s on top with their boot stamping away and who’s on the botttom with their face beneath the boot. Even if the boot stamps to the cadence of “Praise God!” or “Al’lah’u Akbar!”

        Because there are only two end states to Power Struggle.

        • Two things here, first that we have really, desperately, got to get back to the Bible for our worldview and instruction. Great post, but why have so many commented, “wow, I never heard a sermon on that before!” Second, I am convinced that Neitsche influences our culture more than Paul. Which feeds back into my first observation.

  9. Amory Ewerdt says:

    It doesn’t seem like Paul followed his own advice. Or am I missing something?

    • Yes and no, I think. There are specific callings that may give us obligaitons in addition to these, but they don’t negate Paul’s counsel here. I think that in the Bible, the prophets, the apostles, the patriarchs and even Jesus himself lived quiet and faithful lives but also answered God’s call to speak and act at specific times. Maybe it’s one of the paradoxes of the faith that the quiet life of depth is what sometimes help us prepare for such calls.

      • Amory Ewerdt says:

        Thanks John…those are good thoughts. I think that it can sometimes be appealing to go out and turn the world upside down for Christ without really doing it Christianly. I think this can be one of the weaknesses of activist Christianity. I think there is something to be said for slowing down and allowing Christ to revolutionize one’s own life first and then possibly flowing out of that he will use us to revolutionize the world.

      • Even Paul made tents. Too bad he hadn’t discovered the Prosperity gospel. He could have driven from persecution to persecution in his Mercedes.

    • One of my most cherished mentors posted this link on Facebook. This scripture embodies this man. We are as opposite as two people can be. He is a quiet unassuming lover of Christ, while I describe myself as loud and sometimes obnoxious – but well liked. He seems to be a tireless worker within the church and community, never calling attention to himself. Still waters run deep. I am just one of many people this precious man has touched through Jesus Christ. I think this is what the scripture meant.

  10. These verses were proven true again and again in our years as missionaries in Central Asia. No one had any use for us as evangelists. Evangelism, as far as the local people were concerned, was the opposite of minding one’s own business. Only after I had hung out the laundry and lugged bags back from the bazaar and taken care of my kids for a few years, in the sight of my neighbors, did people start to come to me with questions.

  11. I love this passage. We had our youth group make leather bracelets with this passage on them. To remind us this is not our home.

  12. We need to remember this in context of 1 Thessalonians 2:2b – “but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

    • Michael (and Amory above): This one text is obviously not the whole story, but it’s a big part of it—a bigger part than most of us realize—which is why I am highlighting it.

      Here’s the way I see it:

      1. As Christ-followers, we have a mission in the world. We participate in God’s mission (Missio Dei). That’s the big picture.
      2. A major part of participating in the Missio Dei is being faithful in the various ordinary vocations we have.
      3. Another part of participating in the Missio Dei is fulfilling whatever special commissions that God may bring our way—proclaiming the Gospel, participating in service projects, engaging in outreach efforts, and so on.

      I think this puts the emphasis where it should be and shows the proper balance between daily living and participating in church and mission programs.

      • But is the great commission a special commission, it seems to me that proclaiming the gospel needs to be part of parcel of our everyday vocation.

        • Is “proclaiming” the gospel verbalizing it or simply living it? Other than for those specially called as evangelists, it seems the majority of the NT message is about living the gospel quietly. Of course I’m not disparaging verbal evangelism, but it seems the more I read the NT, the more I personally see it saying that non Christians should be the ones coming to Christians and asking them to share their faith based on the lifestyle they see them leading (purity, steadfastness in trials), rather than Christians trying to preach the message to everyone whether they want to hear it or not. Living quiet lives and minding our own business would seem consistent with that approach. Just a thought for consideration.

          • If we are indistinguishable from worldings, then we are not doing it right. That doesn’t mean to be obnoxious and overbearing. But you have to be noticeably different if anyone is going to “ask you the reason for the hope in you”.

            Also, all Christians are called to evangelism. Those few with the gift are supposed to train and encourage the rest.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And what’s Evangelism in practice? Wretched Urgency? Drive-by Prosletyzing sallies from the sally port of the Christian Fortress? Church Lady versions of Kyle’s Mom wagging their fingers with “Thou Shalt Not”? War On Christmas? That’s sure “distinguishable from worldlings”, but not in a good way.

        • Yes, I would consider speaking the Gospel in appropriate personal situations part of faithfulness in our vocations. When I speak of “proclaiming the Gospel,” I’m thinking of those situations where we may get to do that in public meetings or on special occasions.

        • Maybe several things going on here:
          * A theme in several of Paul’s letters is how much God has given him a specific, apostolic calling of service and suffering… and he sincerely wishes that others would not have to endure what he has undergone in fulfilling that calling (Acts 26:29, 2 Cor 4:12).
          * Paul also believes that just the ordinary act of living as a Christian will bring about upheaval and persecution (2 Tim 3:12). Back to Michael’s point, this may mean that Paul’s idea of a “quiet life” for a spirit-filled follower of Christ is so extraordinary that it IS a kind of special commission, with its own noteriety.

        • Reread the Great Commission. Make Disciples! this is something i think Chaplain Mike is trying to address. We are so consumed with “Baptizing them…” we forget how Christ shared and taught them THRU LOVE. and this passage (1Thessalonians 4:11-12) reminds us that we are to Make Disciples and HOW to make Disciples…something the world is missing, and the Church* could do a better job

  13. Always loved this verse. Not only is it not disappointing to me, it is very freeing. Used it recently in a sermon on serving. What a practical way to share the love and Grace of Jesus with your neighbors and coworkers. … But yes, some would prefer something more glamorous.

    • The concept that each individual saint has some grand divine destiny associated with their earthly life is more fairy tale than fact IMHO. It could be what some are wanting out of life simply a make believe perception. God taking pleasure in the unique personality He made us to be might be all He is wanting for us in this life. Nothing dramatic or newsworthy or even a happy testimony time either. He takes pleasure in reconciliation & transformation, but that does not automatically translate into health, wealth, success, fame or even full-time ministry…

    • Many in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches, schools and univeristoes are taught, no badgered, concerning being in “full-time Christian work”. If you don’t have a “ministry” or a job where you earn a salary from a Christian group, you are not really serving God in the most sacrificial, effective, and honorable way. I have seen it burden many a well-meaning Christian almost to the point of destitution and despair. [not exaggerating]

      • Well said and similarly observed in my experience.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Many in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches, schools and univeristoes are taught, no badgered, concerning being in “full-time Christian work”. If you don’t have a “ministry” or a job where you earn a salary from a Christian group, you are not really serving God in the most sacrificial, effective, and honorable way.

        This is the Protestant version of Clericalism, the idea that only Priests, Monks, and Nuns are all that count as Real Christians; the laity “pay, pray, and obey” and nothing else, forever banned from the Real Spiritual Level of Holy Orders and/or Monastic Vows. Well, now they don’t do that Romish Papist stuff. Instead, only Pastors, Missionaries, and Praise/Worship Singers are all that count as Pleasing to God.

        Illustration/Anecdote: During the Eighties, I was involved on the fringe of a local EV Free mega-church. At the YA/singles’ group, they started with the usual silly icebreaker. This time, the icebreaker was the question, “If you weren’t you, What Would You Be?”

        Everyone else was GUBAs, “Grew Up Born Again” entirely in the EV church environment. I wasn’t, and said the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the question. Here’s how the litany around the circle went:
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Pastor.”
        “Missionary.”
        “Either a skunk or a man-eating iguana.”

        My welcome in that group noticeably cooled after that.

        • “either a skunk or a man-eating iguana…” priceless!

          as pure a Kodak moment as ever conceived…

        • ROFL. But it highlights the way some kiddos are being brainwashed. My own experience was a small Baptist youth group of which every one had walked an aisle and dedicated themselves to full time Christian service (that’s Christianese for paid ministry). Today, not one of them is in the ministry, and several are in prison. God save us from our shallowness.

  14. The Seeker says:

    I laugh when I read this.

    My wife came from a church in a small town where the pastor’s spouse was very involved in the lives of congregation, to the point of beinh nosey and pushy.

    As a teenager, she and her friend would repeat that verse and say that it is for Rev K.’s spouse!

    • Live a quiet life.

    • Mind your own business.

    • Work with your hands.

  15. Some Lutheran kids were just confirmed, and afterwards they ask the pastor, “Now what should we do?”

    The pastor answers, “What do you want to do?”

    Christ will be with us and work through us in whatever vocation we decide to take on.

    • Good thing they didn’t ask the youth pastor. They would have been enslaved in youth group meetings, conferences, and summer retreats. Studying? Sports? How worldly. And, yes, this all happens in Lutheran churches, too.

      • Youth pastor? Youth groups? We don’t have enough youth in our congregation to have any of those things.

        You are so right…Lutherans are not immune from all the hoopla, either.

  16. I love that verse. I love that Paul said it. If I’d have said it, it probably would sound unambitious.

    There was a book going around awhile back that advocated unleashing your untamed inner barbarian for Jesus, which is not at all congruous with my particular personality. If I had said, at that time, what Paul says here, I might have been tagged as less-than-faithful in some way. So it’s great that Paul described a path I CAN walk with my personality.

  17. In my experience, if you wait until you are asked, then the person asking will be ready to hear.
    Much more effective.
    Of course, one must see a reason to ask you!
    So, quiet, approachable, patiently going about one’s daily business, but with light shining….gently.

    • kmom, excellent comments and I agree with you 100%. I know that Paul would be out in the common area preaching to whoever would stop and listen to him, but in those days, that was a common thing to do. In the town in which I work, for quite a few months there was a man who stood in front of the downtown businsses and would loudly proclaim that everyone was going to hell who didn’t believe in Jesus. It was embarrassing to hear him and I know I was not the only one who just wished he would shut up. I don’t know if the law finally got involved by telling him to stop due to being a nuisance, but I am glad I don’t have to hear him any longer. If I was not a Christian, this man would not have made me want to be one.

    • I admit I can’t really know, but when I read Acts I get the picture of Paul talking to actual, individual people — in the synagogues, at the Agora, by the riverside. Are there any places where he just stands up, unprovoked, in a public place, and harangues a crowd of unsuspecting passers-by? Even when he was talking to the Athenians, he was taking a turn at public speaking among people who invited him to speak and who took turns listening and responding. I think what’s so offensive about those street preachers Joanie is talking about is that they never see or care about the people they’re talking to. Jesus was exactly the opposite.

      • Damaris, I’m surprised to hear you say that. Are you familiar with Ray Comfort? He does street preaching all the time. He does it out of love of people.

    • As a member of a conservative Anabaptist group, this has seemed to be/is our mantra…but it does create its own problems, you can be soo quiet, that you don’t ever say anything…and just living the Christian life before others doesn’t make them Christian.
      One of the hardest things for me to hear was from a local man who longed to raise his children to be like the Mennonite kids he saw in his work place every day, but he told me that he can’t because he wasn’t born Mennonite.
      So coming from one who heard these verses frequently used as the basis of faithful Christian living, my struggle is “how do I make my way of life seem accessible to those who long to have it, but see it as unattainable?”

      • Do you think that part of the problem with the conservative Anabaptist way of doing it is that we live this out within a culture that is very disconnected from the one around us? So the chap who said that to you would be thinking “I would love to have my kids turn out like that, but I was born in a different culture, so I can’t do the same thing.” How do we live out some of the Anabaptists distinctives and ideals in ways that don’t create their own culture? I believe that we’ll still “look” different as Christians (as someone pointed out above, that’s part of the whole point), but maybe not quite like that…

    • This was Dr. McGee’s philosophy…he wouldn’t bring it up unless he was asked…because, as he said, he wanted the Lord to give opportunity to speak–not him forcing the gospel into someone’s face. Besides, if I am not living my faith out loud, no one will hear my words anyway.

      This has long been one of my favorite verses, and find myself sharing it with others who get overshelmed, discouraged, confused. ..or with those who don’t think I am ‘serving’ appropriately or getting involved politically. Jesus led (tried to) a fairly quiet un-obscure life for the most part–set the example for us.

      This is how I’ve chosen to live–not shrilly, where I am a ‘noisy gong or a clanging cymbal’ (I Cor. 13:1).

  18. The trouble here is we have made a generalization of the Christian life based off two verses, and verses that specifically point to further teaching. These commands can’t be the basis to a Christian life, there is far too much more that Paul has to say, and that we are missing behind this teaching.

    • See my comment to Michael and Amory above. I’ve said in that and other comments that this is not the whole story. The reason I highlighted these verses is because the doctrine of vocation, which these verses commend, is greatly underemphasized among evangelicals. It is much more prevalent than just these two verses, John, but they provide one of the clearest expressions of it.

    • john l . you are right. this is law being spoken. the law ALWAYS accuses us.

      the basis for the christian life is invisible faith alone in christ alone.

      The law is all about making our Old Adam do good for others by killing him. literally. this is called mortification. some confuse this with sanctification.

      the just shall live by faith.

  19. I have to admit, I get sort of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I hear this verse (not when I read it in its context). I definitely believe it is often ignored in favor of “evangelistic” obnoxiousness or practical dualism, but it’s often misapplied as well. What about the Christian who can’t earn a living (my situation for over a dozen years now, with a disabling condition that went entirely undiagnosed for most of that time and only partially diagnosed – and ineffectively treated – for the last few years. Needless to say, no Social Security yet – not fun as a divorced mom raising a son on her own)? I think we have to be careful; I think it’s likely Paul was addressing a particular problem in the Thessalonian church – see 2 Thess. 3:6-14, another passage misapplied, as when I asked a church for help for a Christian friend – a long time attendee of that church – who was struggling with mental illness, attending college and, having lost her job some time before and couldn’t find another. In fairness, the decision-makers did struggle, but concluded with “if you don’t work, you won’t eat.”

    • please ‘scuse the eccentric grammar – and the rant :-)

    • sg, please don’t think that this is what I was emphasizing. Of course, Paul would never say “work with your hands” to those unable to do so. There are plenty of passages urging the church to care for those in need. I hope you will find a compassionate fellowship that will work with you and your friend to find a way to do that.

      • Mike, thank you, I appreciate that. I didn’t mean to imply that you were applying Paul’s words this way, but bringing out the ways others have done so. My friend dropped out of college and then moved out of state to become her disabled mother’s primary caregiver (the unmarried, unemployed daughter). She’s had her struggles these last several years but is now closer to extended family which provides some comfort. I think she’s doing amazingly well, considering.

        12 years and multiple churches have produced much heartache and a few bright spots. Gotta admit, I’ve gotten less compatible w/humanity in general over the last few years, so not holding my breath so far as finding truly supportive Christian fellowship. Doesn’t mean that I won’t do my best from my end, but I know that’s not much. God’s still in charge, though – thankfully :-)

  20. I like this verse, do as I do, not as I say. I have met far too many “Christians” willing to set me straight on dos and don’ts in my life.Beating someone over the head with rules and regulations won’t win people to Christ. Love the Lord, and your neighbor and be an example of Christian living. That is an example of one type of evangelism.

  21. good post, but i’m afraid I have no interest in a quiet life, not minding the business of, say, the worlds poor

  22. Excellent post. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is from the earliest Christian document we have (the first letter to the Thessalonians). It was written before anything else in the New Testament.

    This is actually a very important verse in my life. Many in the small farming world have deep attachment to the truths of this message.

    At the same time, of course, this must be read in the context of the message of Christ and not in exclusion of it. Living a quiet, non-confrontational life, working with our hands and being as self reliant as possible (and hopefully leading by example), does not prevent a believer from serving the poor and needy, showing sacrificial generosity to others and serving the needs of our community of fellow believers (our congregation, if you will). What Paul seems to be advocating here, it seems to me, is humility, not selfishness or indifference.

    Again, great post.

  23. This may be one of the most neglected texts in the New Testament regarding the Christian life.

    I could probably think of more neglected ones.

    When it comes to the “how” of loving others, the Apostle gives us 4:11-12 (the text above). I don’t know about you, but when I read his instructions, it’s a let-down. I’m kind of disappointed.

    I find them comforting.

    • In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give a list of doable activities that one could perform on behalf of others to express love.

    Which probably says more about this generation’s difficulty expressing affection.

    We have this thing about being “practical,” and we want to know the “steps” of “application.” We value creative ideas, instructions, a manual with directions to follow. We want to know which books to read, which videos to watch, which seminars to attend, which websites to consult, which counselor can help us make the breakthroughs we need to live this out more fully. Paul does not oblige.

    Backlash against too much theory and too little time “in the lab,” so to speak.

    • In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give examples or tell a story that touches our hearts about how someone showed extraordinary, exemplary love for another, how a person showed sacrificial generosity toward another—perhaps an unworthy recipient—and how God blessed as a result.

    Only bad preaching, maybe. The passage doesn’t allow for that. Most people I know can’t stand sermons that don’t touch both the mind and the heart. Okay, so my spiritual gifting is not sentimentality…

    • In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to exhort us about being more involved in the life of the congregation.

    Again, not if they’re preaching that particular passage.

    After all, how can your love for others grow if you are not participating with them in the fellowship of the church? Are you attending church regularly? Are you in a Bible study, learning God’s Word with others? Are you in a small group, sharing your life and praying with others? Do you have an accountability group to help you keep your motives and actions in check, so that you are staying pure and living a life of holy love? Are you actively partnering with others in Kingdom service? Paul does not point out any of these things.

    Accountability partners haven’t really worked for me, but I’m curious what’s inherently wrong with any of these things.

    Paul’s encouragement, instead, must seem remarkably lackluster and ordinary from the point of view of those who invest so much in spiritual engineering and technology, motivational methods, and churchianity.

    Why lackluster? He basically said “mind your own business.” It’s essentially a spin on James’ “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” only with a bit less bite to it.

    • Live a quiet life.

    • Mind your own business.

    • Work with your hands.

    The best way to show Christian love to others? It almost sounds like a prescription for a small, selfish life! Yet this is how the Apostle, by divine inspiration, encourages us to live.

    How is it selfish and small?

    Paul commends a life that is the very opposite of activist churchianity. Instead, he advocates the way of Christian vocation—Walk humbly and quietly with God. Don’t think it’s your job to change the world. Quit sticking your nose in everybody else’s business. Do your work and do it well. Let Christ’s love for others grow naturally out of that soil. Earn the respect of your neighbors over time as you live your life in Christ. Slow down. Get small. Run quiet. Go deep. Grow up. Keep on keeping on. Stand on your own two feet. Become a mature human being.

    “He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord requireth of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humblyl with thy God.”

    Not sexy at all. Kind of disappointing.

    I honestly think the word “sexy” has no meaning. And I’m not sure if you’re meaning “disappointing” as tongue-in-cheek or what.

    Maybe the video will be more practical.

    You know, your overall point isn’t my problem. Like I said, I take some comfort in the idea that we don’t have to part the Red Sea to be called God’s friend. That ordinary people can be saints. That there’s more unnamed people in Hebrews 11 than named people. But these generalities and off-the-cuff comments, at least in my mind, seem to undermine what you’re really wanting to say – at least in some of these posts.

    Us ordinary folk have the same title in Hebrews as the extraordinary: Men of whom the world is not worthy.

    • Kaci, I think you misunderstood the writing style. CM’s point generally is the opposite of all the points you highlighted…he was writing as if it were someone of the opposite viewpoint in order to show how much that viewpoint was at odds with the key verse being quoted.

      • I understood his point, like I said. But while it’s true human nature is to try to create a checklist, I have a hard time believing anyone actually preaching from that text could use any of those arguments.

        There’s a reason people swing from a pendulum: postmodernism was an attempt to get away from the cold realities of modernism (that is, all fact with no emotional component). The emergent movement is, more or less, an attempt to look at things previously ignored. Legalism is easily countered by liberalism. Orthodox with unorthodox. Tyranny with anarchy. So, in the end, if people are demanding to know how theological principles and concepts play out in every day life, that’s a question that needs answering, or else all we’ve got is faith with no action behind it. All I was trying to suggest that maybe something more was going on behind the need for pragmatism. Pragmatists tend to be good with following plans but terrible at taking basic principles and reapplying them.

        So that was it. I just don’t know many pastors that teach us to be busy bodies.

  24. This all gets put in perspective when you realize he was writing to the Thessalonian believers as a group. He wasn’t really speaking about individual vocations here.

    The early Christians had all things in common and distributed their goods to make sure no one had any need, and especially no need to go outside the church for help. The context of these verses makes it obvious that as a whole, the Thessalonians should use their own industry to support each other and enable themselves to lead quiet lives, and not meddle in unbelievers’ business.

    Of course, as we function in the Body as God designed us to individually, we will find individual fulfillment, but there really is no focus on individual fulfillment in these verses.

    I think if these verses contradict anything about the evangelical church, it’s more a rebuke on evangelicals’ focus on politics, making political demands and starting movements to solve societal problems by changing government, while leaving individual church members to fend for and provide for their own needs.

  25. Kaci’s two posts above in response to the article are more admirable and accurate than the cynically-based article. A wrong reaction to wrong modernity in the church only confirms and strengthens what is bad about modernity.

    The sum of God’s Word is truth ~ Psalm 119:160. The article’s final paragraph is not “wrong”, per se, but quite lacking in scope, and the spirit of the letter is what is disappointing.

    I am certainly not supportive of “spiritual engineering and technology, motivational methods, and churchianity,” but these terms are easily too broadly applied when being critical, and the citations in the article considered as such (the items one might expect Paul to do today) are not wrong in themselves. Some can actually be mandates of other portions of Scripture, and some were exemplified by Jesus Christ Himself.

    But in the end, working hard in your daily life, whatever that entails; being a producer and a generous giver, and less a taker except when in genuine need ~ a society of people like this does change the world.

    Go therefore and make disciples, teaching them to observe ALL that He has commanded us, and lo!, He is with us always!