Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
—1 Thessalonians 5:14–15
What a clear mandate for the church’s responsibility to all types of people in the body, including the rowdies, the fainthearted, the weak, and the carnal! Pursue what is good for yourself and for all. That means we cannot treat
everyone within the body the same. Don’t be surprised that there are weak believers and carnal babes in Christ. Don’t treat every problem that arises as though the heart of the matter is the spirit of unruliness.
“Don’t treat the toe like a thumb or expect the eye’s job to be done by an ear” could be one way to understand this exhortation. The body of Christ is made up of different people with different gifts, different personalities, and even different ways of processing problems and difficulties. Don’t treat the weak as though they are unruly or the fainthearted as though they are carnal, and vice versa.
There is room for different personality types in the body of Christ, but it requires us to use wisdom, discernment, and—there is that word again—patience. As a pastor, I sometimes find it hard to understand why everyone isn’t as committed to the church as I am or others are. It’s hard to understand how people can move in and out of ministries with a seemingly casual attitude that someone else will just step in and fill their places. But I have to be patient with such people, as my calling is different from theirs. I cannot have the same expectations for them that I might have of someone called to vocational ministry. Now I am not trying to lessen the importance of serving God, by any stretch, but I am saying we cannot cookie-cutter our expectations and responses to other people.
There are times when I know the Lord wants me to gently encourage someone in a particular area, while another person with the same struggle may need to be handled differently. Yes, there is one body and one Christ, but all parts of the body play different roles and have different functions. Be patient with one another. The perfect Christian is not someone who is just like you—or me!
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