6 Now we command you, beloved,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are[b] living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they[c] received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9 This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 Brothers and sisters,[d] do not be weary in doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 NRSV)
Worshiping communities care for each other.
They enjoy their time together serving, worshiping and in fellowship. Their faith may lie on a spectrum from conservative to liberal, but they love each other equally.
Strong friendships are made in a church. Outside the world of competition and politics and getting ahead, friends relax and become more themselves and find others with whom to enjoy spending time. I’ve heard stories of friends going back more than fifty years. They shared the humorous moments. They remember the moments when their friend wasn’t at their best. Most of all, they can share their spirituality and the effect they had on their own lives.
Strong communities encourage each other. They worship together, sometimes despite disagreements. They learn together and share their knowledge and are strengthened to journey through some of life’s more difficult moments.
Strong churches serve. They work within the community to feed and educate the poor, seek justice for the persecuted and security for the vulnerable. They take what they’ve learned and what they believe into the world and demonstrate their faith in work and play.
All told, strong communities model Jesus’ love to each other and in the world.
Sometimes, though, a community gets side-tracked. Someone comes in with new ideas, unwilling to be apart of the church until it changes to suit them. A member may be going through a difficult time and takes it out on his fellow members. Two friends have a falling out and the gossiping spreads like wild-fire.
At First Church, Thessalonica, some members believed that Jesus was coming again, very soon. They saw no need to work because the world, as they knew it, was over. Yet, they relied on the church to provide for them.
Get back to work, Paul tells them. Quit sponging off your friends and church family. That food you’re eating should be going to those in real need.
What is your ideal of a church community? When have you felt a part of something that was alive? When were you in a place where you learned and developed your discipleship skills?
When have you been a part of the ugly side of church? Being a group of humans, many of us have. People have hurt because they’re hurting. People behave badly and need to be corrected. Some have to be “loved” back into community after a falling out.
In healthy community, with Christ as the head, we don’t need to feel weary or discouraged in doing the right thing. God is at work bringing in something new and better.
We can become easily discouraged when our learning and prayer bring us understanding of the world that confuses and hurts our sensibilities: wealth and poverty, privilege and persecution, security and vulnerability.
Recently, a young family called the church office in need of assistance. They were being evicted that night and needed a place to stay. I serve a church in a rural setting so I decided to help them get to the larger city forty-five miles away where he stood a better chance of finding work.
I met them at the motel and paid for their room. The father said they would need to eat. I gave him an envelope with enough money for dinner and breakfast at the restaurant across the street, as well as gas money. He said he worked in construction. I suggested they make their way to a mission in the next city where they would be able to connect him to jobs.
An hour later he called me. It seems that their car had broken down. Could I help him with repairs? In fact, did I know someone who would give them a car that worked.
He’s the reason people resist offering aid. When did this able-bodied man give up and decide to let the world support him? Will we ever find a solution to poverty? Are we destined as a people to continue watching our children grow up struggling against the odds only to get sucked back into the disease of poverty?
Then I remembered Jesus’ words that the poor will always be with us. For the moment, I wanted to give up. I suspect you know how I felt that day. There’s too much need, too much misunderstanding and confusion. We get tired.
Christian community at its best steps in and reminds us that Christ is still head of the church, that God is still at work and we can relax and listen for God’s call to serve using our own gifts and talents. Only in the strength of community can we continue to work at doing the right thing.
Community at its best reminds us of our call in Jesus’ name to responsibly care for each other, to challenge each other and to seek to do what is right in the eyes of our Lord.
We do this every day despite the pressures of the world.
All glory and honor be to God.