Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians contains many admonitions of practical value to each of us. Today we will consider those given regarding relationships between church members and church leadership.
"And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13. We live at a time in which it is not uncommon for leaders to be ignored, challenged, and disrespected. Paul's counsel cuts across that practice and tells us instead to "know" – notice, respect or recognize – these people who may have had to admonish or reprove us. But he goes further. Not only are we to consider them highly but rather very highly in love not necessarily because we always agree with them or their methods but out of recognition of the type of work that goes with the position. This will be productive of peace.
In the following verse Paul directs his counsel to the leaders. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" verses 14. The conscientious person in a role of Christian leadership must do the right thing even when difficult. To "warn" or reprove an insubordinate individual is not easy, but it must be done. The leader must also recognize the need to provide comfort and support to those who are lacking in self-confidence or who have moral or spiritual limitations. How easy is it to be "patient toward all men"? Yet that is what the leader is called to do.
Verse 15 gives excellent counsel for all of us whether leaders or the led. "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." A leader receiving disrespect may think of ways to "show them". One who feels a leader has come down too hard on them may want to get even, but this verse tells us these ideas are always inappropriate. Instead we are told "ever follow that which is good".
God grant that we choose His ways of relating in love and respect for all.
Kathryn Irizarry is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.