Beckett: The Nicest People on the Planet

In His final instruction to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul charges them “to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seeks 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. Do not quench the Spirit… Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-19, 22).

Lutheran Bishop and Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zenzendorf (1700-1760) lectured similarly, “Whoever is a true disciple, whoever is a child of God, is kind and obliging; he is a comfort to all and burdensome to none; he never asks much of anyone, but he rejoices when he can do much for another… One is removed from all vainglory, from exalting oneself above others, from insisting on being in the right… Indeed, one thinks before another thought arises, by what means did I give occasion for that? ‘Dear Father, do forgive the fault that is mine in that book, in that slander, in that persecution.’ This is always the first thought of a heart which has received grace” (quoted in Schumacher, 43-44).

Imagine a person such as what Paul and Zenzendorf described. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single person who’s like this. Such a person would be the nicest person on the planet! And yet, that is the kind of people Paul is exhorting these Thessalonians—and you and me—to be. Alas! we fall exceedingly short. For we disrespect our own colleagues and co-workers, and we especially disrespect those who are in authority over us—whether they are right or wrong does not matter. When someone admonishes us in the Lord—when they tell us we’ve sinned in some way—we immediately become defensive and justify ourselves in our sin.

Instead of being at peace with others, we seek contention and division. Instead of encouragingly admonishing the idle to work, we beat them with words of degradation: “You’re lazy, worthless, useless,” etc. Perhaps they are lazy, but telling them that won’t make them any less lazy! Instead of encouraging the fainthearted, we say absurd things like “depression is a sin”; “you’re not depressed, just get over it,” “just have more faith,” etc. We are most impatient with people. Instead of doing good to those who are evil, we fight fire with fire and return evil for evil, and evil thus increases (and then we foolishly wonder why the world is filled with so much evil). Instead of rejoicing in the Lord, men don’t sing in church. We seldom pray and give thanks to the Lord. In all these ways, we quench the Spirit, choking Him out of us.

Why live as Paul has described at all? Besides it being an apostolic command, and therefore a command of Christ, this is simply how the Church—the people of God—live. The Church is holy, that is, set apart. She doesn’t look, sound, behave, or even smell like the rest of the world. We know what the opposites of these behaviours that Paul commands look like, for we do them and see them all the time. Christ has not called the Church to be like the rest of the world. As He said once, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:33). IF we only do good to those who do good to us, or those who like us, we’re not different than anybody else. The Church is fundamentally different. She loves as her Groom loves—she loves the weak and the burdensome. Like Christ, she takes a beating instead of trading injury for injury. She does this not to earn Christ’s favour, but simply because this is how Christ has loved us, and how He loves the world.


Schumacher, Frederick J., and Dorothy A. Zelenko. For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church. Volume I, Year 1: Advent to the Day of Pentecost. Delhi, NY: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2003.

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