A well-known quote from the gangster movie The Untouchables expresses a strong spirit of retaliation or revenge: “You wanna know how to get [gangster Al] Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.” In his closing exhortations to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that our natural “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” or payback instinct is not true for followers of Jesus. Instead, we’re to “strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (v. 15; see also Matt. 5:38–42).
One important example of this is Paul’s command that the church be good followers of its pastors and spiritual leaders (1 Thess. 5:12–13). Most translations render “care for you” (v. 12) as something like “lead you” or “preside over you.” Leaders work hard shepherding their fellow believers and deserve the highest levels of respect and love. If those who follow can “live in peace with each other” (v. 13), they can help make leaders’ jobs less burdensome. The work of the church leaders would have been particularly important because Paul and his team had been driven from the city after only a few months with the new believers. Perhaps some were tempted to give their peers less respect (and more trouble?) than they gave the missionaries. If that was the case, the apostle gave the leaders his full support here.
Paul also gave a handful of additional exhortations for relationships among believers (v. 14). We should warn lazy and disruptive people to change their behavior (see May 30), encourage the discouraged, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. These godly actions are contrary to human sinfulness, which, for example, typically leads the strong to exploit the weak.
>> Are you brooding over an unfairness you’ve endured or wrongs done to you? We encourage you to leave revenge to God (Prov. 20:22; Rom. 12:19). His justice is perfect!
It is difficult to let go of resentment, Lord, especially when it seems justified. Move us to forgive, Father. We trust your justice and we recognize that others are undergoing sanctification just as we are.