1 Thessalonians 5:14
And, my dear family, we beg you to warn those who step out of line. Console the downcast; help the weak; be warm-hearted and patient toward everybody.
This is an extremely helpful, practical verse.
While journeying with the body of believers—all different types of people in radically different places in life—we must be observant and discerning if we are to move forward appropriately.
Here we have three different conditions:
- Those who step out of line
- The downcast
- The weak
Necessitating three unique and proper responses:
Those who are out of line need to be warned, or admonished, to get back in line so as not to cause division. There are standards, traditions, and disciplines for a reason. Though we are all individuals, we are also a community, and there are some basics we all need to adhere to if we are going to be unified in spirit.
People who are downcast, or faint of heart, need consoling. They need encouragement. They need someone there beside them to encourage them not to quit even though they feel like it. The Greek word Paul uses is made up of two words: para, near; and muthos, speech. Instead of scolding the faint-hearted from a distance, we must get close to them and speak tenderly.
And the weak need to be held up so that they don’t fall. Paul is referring to those weak in the faith who had not grown strong in the Lord. They may need instructing in the faith, mentoring, and/or a “success model” as my friend Rex calls it. The weak need support.
The mistake we can make, which I feel is ultimately a form of laziness, is using a one-size-fits-all approach to everybody.
Some treat everybody as out of line, or “lazy” as some translations put it. Well, when someone is downcast, and you warn and admonish or scold them, it tends to drive them further down into their hole. Warning those who are weak isn’t much better, as they probably won’t even get what you’re saying, still longing for support.
Equally, we can’t treat every person as downcast. Tenderly consoling someone who is being an out of line, rebellious butt-head does nobody any good. And you can encourage a weak person all you want, which may do a little good, but they will still lack the instruction and mentoring that they really need.
And lastly, treating everybody as if they’reweak can also be heartless and damaging. Giving instruction to someone who is really downcast can be downright awful. We must be able to truly see someone who is deeply discouraged, and not just try to “teach” them out of it. And attempting to mentor someone who is simply out of line falls into this apples to oranges approach to peoples as well. Those who are determined to go their own way will not take personal responsibility for their behavior, no matter how good your example, and will most likely succeed in draining your energies.
But there is a common manner in which we are to handle all types—warm-hearted and patient. Whether warning, consoling, or supporting, we need to do so with patience and with a warm heart toward the person we are helping.
I hope this was as helpful for you as it was for me–sorry so long today!