By Abbey Karrh, FSU Simple Charity
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, ESV
I recently discovered a habit in my spiritual life that is completely nonsensical, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who does it. During the time I am spending worshipping the Lord, whether in church, Bible study, or in my own quiet time, I tend to gloss over the Bible passages that are being discussed. I skim them, appreciate them in an “oh, that’s nice” sort of way, and wait for someone to tell me what they mean and how to apply them to my life. Without looking again, would you be able to name any three of the themes in the passage at the top of the page?
On day one of Simple Charity’s campaign, Reflect. Connect. Give., we are encouraging members of our community to partake in some reflection. Before reading on, I would like to encourage you to go back and really look at 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 again. What sticks out to you?
For me, commands about continually praying and giving thanks are almost always convicting, even though they’re discussed all the time in the Bible and the church. They are just so difficult to obey, so I’m always aware of my inadequacy in that regard! Meanwhile, commands such as “seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” seem obvious. Of course I seek to do good to everyone! What else would I be doing?
Now that I’m reflecting on it though, I wonder what it truly means to seek to do good, to go beyond showing basic politeness to my friends and neighbors. Also, what did God have in mind when He gave Paul the divine inspiration to include a charge to do good to others in a passage reminding us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks? We’ll come back to this.
Practical Advice for Sanctification
I read 1 Thessalonians as a sort of welcome letter Paul wrote for new believers in the church of Thessalonica. “Welcome to Christianity, grace and peace be unto you! Friendly reminder that Jesus is going to return soon, isn’t that awesome? Here are some things for you to do while we wait…” Essentially, this book gives us some practical advice for sanctification. We are encouraged to give thanks and pray continually because it allows us to better work towards sanctification.
Quick, important note about sanctification: it is very different from salvation. Justification, or salvation, is the instantaneous act of God declaring us as righteous through our acceptance of the gift Jesus gave us through His sacrifice. It took no work on our own part (Romans 5:1, 9). Sanctification is our response to this, the process of conforming ourselves to the image of Christ. Sanctification does take work, but we have the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us and convict us. 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 says “God has called us not for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” (NASB)
Okay, back to the questions I raised about the passage earlier. In my experience, I have found that not only does the Bible have all of the answers, but God also tends to nicely group these answers together. When a verse raises a question in us, “What does it look like to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances?”, the answer is usually nearby. Most of the commands in this passage have to do with our internal sanctification. No one can tell from watching me go about my daily life whether I’m praying continuously and rejoicing in the Lord. Or can they?
Always Seek To Do Good
There is only one command in that passage that does not have to do with vigilance or inward indicators of faith: “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” This has to do with outward actions, making a point to show others kindness. I believe that the verse immediately before this passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, shows what brotherly kindness, affection for and service to those in the household of faith (and to all people), looks like. “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all” (ASV, shaking it up a little). This is how we can do good to others. This is how our sanctification grows from the inside out.
Here at Simple Charity, we put a lot of focus on encouraging the fainthearted and supporting the weak. We do it because God commands us to, and, of course, we strive to do it in manners that are smart, sincere, and simple. We are trying to learn what it looks like to serve our neighbors in a globalized society. This weekend, we are extending an opportunity to do good unto others through supporting Wellspring International.
A patient at the current burn clinic.
Wellspring International is a nonprofit that identifies existing, community-based organizations across the world that aid at-risk women and children. Once they find them, they financially equip them in order to show Jesus’ love. Currently, they are raising funds to build a surgical center for burn victims in Southeast Asia. Since 1999, the organization they are supporting has already holistically served over 12,000 burn victims in the area. Many of these victims were burned by accidents or suicide attempts, but the majority of them were women and children burned via domestic abuse such as bride burning, a punishment that occurs if a new bride’s family does not provide a sufficient dowry to her husband. The organization is currently operating in a one-room facility, where patients crowd in all day, waiting to be treated, as others are having their dressings changed and being counseled.
The current facility for the burn clinic.
Clearly, this organization’s capacity to serve is severely limited by their space. Wellspring International wants to allow this organization to increase and improve patient care through a new surgical center. It will cost $1.3 million to build it; Simple Charity is striving to raise $13,000 for the project this weekend, just 1% of its budget.
As you carry on with your day, continue to reflect on what it means to seek after that which is good for all people. Please pray for the burn clinic. If you feel led to donate to Wellspring International’s project, you can do so here.