The apostle Paul is concerned that the new members of the church in Thessalonica will remain faithful given all the challenges of being a Christian. False teachers are all around. With this concern in mind, Paul develops a “Top Ten” list of core values that should guide Christian behavior. He always prefaces this by saying that we are not saved by what we do or don’t do, we are saved by grace through faith.
Yet actions do matter. He says they will know we are Christians by our love, faith, and hope. When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, when we are following Jesus, there are some core values that should become second nature to us. These are just as relevant today as they were in the first century.
- Be at peace among yourselves.
- Warn the lazy, comfort the fearful, hold onto the weak, be patient with all.
- Do not pay back evil with evil, pursue the good for each other and for all.
- Always rejoice (we need more Jesus parties).
- Never stop praying.
- In everything give thanks.
- Don’t quench the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Test everything, but the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
- Keep yourself from every kind of evil; do not be led into temptation.
- Respect your leaders, and honor their work.
When a church takes these core values seriously, Paul suggests, it will become “a happy church.” What an intriguing description, “a happy church.” During my 20 years of ministry at Hope, I have always been deeply moved by how the congregation is such a happy church, united, positive, and affirming. Even when our life may not be going well for us, or for those we love, the church still has retained its spirit of joy and celebration.
If you want to catch just a whiff of that kind of happiness, tune in to the Vacation Bible School from this past July. Or as Jesus says in John 15:11, “I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.” (AMPC)
Questions for reflection:
- Which of the core values speak directly to you?
- What is most important in building a happy church?
- Where do you find the most joy at Lutheran Church of Hope?