When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, he was calling all believers to a ministry of corrective love, which he faithfully modeled as a minister of God. A key verse to consider regarding this one-another ministry is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here we notice that every church contains at least three kinds of people who need the personal one-another ministry that we often refer to as counseling: the unruly, the fainthearted, and the weak.
The unruly are those who live undisciplined, disorderly lives. “The word was primarily a military term used of the soldier who is out of step or out of rank or the army moving in disarray. It then was used more generally of whatever is out of order.” The undisciplined lives of some in Thessalonica were primarily characterized by willful unemployment, “doing no work at all” (2 Thess. 3:11). According to Paul, this kind of person needs to be firmly corrected and instructed concerning God’s expectation of him or her as a diligent worker. Sometimes, when this person’s disorderliness spills over into the church, causing dissension, even stronger action will need to be taken, as found in the apostle’s letter to Titus: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (3:10–11). Though all unruly behavior warrants confrontation, this is an example of destructive influence that threatens the unity of the church to the degree that it is necessary to quickly move to an advanced stage of church discipline.
The fainthearted need encouragement. The Greek word used here means “small-souled” or “despondent.” These kind of worrisome strugglers don’t need firm rebuke like the unruly, but invigorating words that redirect their discouraged hearts to trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Jesus used words like this to help His disciples fight anxiety: “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!” (Luke 12:28). Therefore, our words must dispense encouragement to those in need of it.
Tomorrow, in Part 2, we will look at another unique approach of biblical love.