TO BE AT PEACE
In verse 13 Paul gives this exhortation: “Be at peace among yourselves.” To regard the leading ones and to be at peace with one another is a proper condition of a local church. But if the saints in a local church do not respect the leading ones, there will be no peace. The same principle applies to the family life. If the children do not respect their parents, how can there be peace? In such a situation it will be impossible for a family to have peace. In like manner, there will not be peace in an army if the soldiers have no respect for the officers.
The sequence of Paul’s thoughts in these verses is significant. First, we need to be watchful and sober in fighting the spiritual warfare. Second, we must highly regard the leading ones. Then we shall be at peace among ourselves.
ADMONISHING, ENCOURAGING, UPHOLDING, AND BEING LONGSUFFERING
In verse 14 Paul continues, “And we entreat you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, console the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be longsuffering toward all.” Those who are disorderly are idle or busybodies; they are not disciplined, but are unruled and rebellious. Acting on their own, they are disorderly and do not care for the proper order in the church life. According to verse 14, all the brothers, not only the leading ones, should admonish the disorderly. This means that all the saints must function to shepherd others and edify them.
In verse 14 Paul also encourages us to console the fainthearted. Literally, the Greek word for fainthearted is “of little soul.” It refers to being narrow and weak in the capacity of mind, will, and emotion. Those who are little-souled have a very limited capacity to bear sufferings or difficulties. Among the saints there are some who are born with such a small soul. They need to be comforted, consoled.
In verse 14 Paul also encourages us to uphold the weak. The weak here probably refers to the weak ones in general, who are weak either in their spirit, soul, or body, or weak in faith (Rom. 14:1; 15:1). Some saints among us are weak. They may be weak in body or in spirit, weak in heart or in will. Some are weak in their faith or weak in praying. What shall we do with these weak ones? According to Paul’s word, we need to uphold them.
In verse 14 Paul exhorts us to be longsuffering toward all. This implies that in a local church, besides some being disorderly who need admonishing, some being of little soul who need consolation, and some being weak who need upholding, all the members may be a problem in some way and need our longsuffering toward them.
Today we are still in the old creation, not in the New Jerusalem. This is the reason there are many problems among the saints. According to my experience, every one of us can be a problem to others. I may be a problem to you, and you may be a problem to me. On the one hand, we may love all the saints; on the other hand, they may cause us problems. Therefore, we need to be longsuffering toward all.
We should not dream that the church will be a utopia. On the contrary, the church life is full of problems. If a believer does not have any problems, it is not likely that he will come into the church life. Those who have no problems have no need for the church life. In a sense, the church is a hospital filled with those who are sick. For this reason, we need to be longsuffering toward all the saints.
Do not be bothered when others come to you with problems, even with problems that seem to be small and insignificant. In particular, those who are little-souled may come to you with minor problems. To such ones, even a hair is like a heavy weight. Instead of being angry at them for bringing such a small thing to you, help them to deal with their problems. However, an elder may be irritated by one who brings a little problem to him. Elders, learn to be longsuffering, especially toward the weak and those with a little soul. Any brother who expects to be an elder must be longsuffering. Paul’s word in verse 14, however, is not limited to elders; it is a word for all the saints.
A number of times saints have come to me saying that they cannot tolerate the church life in their locality and want to move elsewhere. I told them that if they move to a different place, they will find the situation in the new place to be even worse. If they travel from place to place, eventually they will probably prefer the locality where they began. This is a common experience among church travelers. Instead of seeking to move to a different locality where you think the situation in the church will be better, remain where you are and be longsuffering toward all. Because no church is heavenly, free of problems, all the saints, and not only the elders, need longsuffering.
In verse 15 Paul goes on to say, “See that no one renders to anyone evil for evil, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.” This means that regardless of how others treat us, even if their treatment is evil, we should pursue good for them. If we do not have longsuffering, however, we shall render evil for evil.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 18, by Witness Lee)