The Apostle Paul – a Realist for Christ!
Paul concludes his short little letter to the Thessalonian believers with a strong dose of realism. While he encourages these early believers to spread the Word rapidly so the Lord may be glorified…he doesn’t avoid some harsh words about the infant church. He uses such phrases as “evil people,” “living in idleness,” and “mere busybodies.” And the startling point he makes is this: these aren’t some coarse pagans…no they should be “warned as believers!”
There’s a lesson in that for us today. We may look at people who appear to be falling away from the faith and pigeon-hole them as anti-Christian, maybe even evil. Not so with Paul. He knew his own heart and how he had opposed the Gospel earlier and even consented to executions of some of the early believers. So, he had compassion for those who were wavering from the teachings of the Word. He wanted to include them, not exclude them from the fold, and see them come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was also realistic about a Christian’s role in society. Even though he was a recognized leader in the early church, he didn’t take advantage of others (“…we didn’t eat anyone’s bread, without paying for it.”) He had no cushy retirement plan. He worked hard to support himself so he could extend the Gospel without charge! In my early New England childhood home, my mother hand-painted a number of cupboard panels in our colonial home’s kitchen. Some had cryptic verses from the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevalla…but one panel had a quote in Swedish that came from II Thess. 3:10 – “…anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Not until much later in life did I realize this was a quote from the Bible. It certainly was appropriate for the kitchen where our meals were served.
Finally, Paul was realistic about himself. He may have been suffering from poor eyesight. So his concluding phrase, “This is the mark in every letter of mine: it is the way I write.” No excuses. No cover-up. No, he just said it the way it is. It made his final thought so much more inspiring, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.”