The New Year holiday is traditionally a time to reflect on the previous year, and look forward to the next, perhaps making plans and even resolutions for the months ahead. As you look forward to 2011 I want to encourage you to make 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 a part of your plans for the new year: For you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing.... But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Here, Paul's vision of the Christian life is profoundly simple, profoundly doable, and for many, profoundly disappointing.
Why disappointing? Well, simply put, Paul offers no grand vision to the Thessalonians on how to change the world. Instead, he offers them a simple, quiet, steady, faithful, loving, and humble vision of how they ought to live. While so many Christian messages we hear today call us to aspire to world-changing greatness, Paul calls us "to aspire to live quietly, and to mind our own affairs."
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for seeing this world transformed for the glory of God. But perhaps that transformation comes, not with a grand vision of how to transform our community, but with a simple vision of how we ourselves might be transformed by God.
Here is how one author puts it:
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 (from Chaplain Mike at internetmonk.com, ht: Gene Veith).
Disappointing? Yes, if your goal is to change the world. But for the rest of us, striving simply to do our job well, and to grow in love towards others, and to live quiet, humble lives for God's glory and the good of our neighbors, Paul gives us something worth aspiring to in 2011.