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August 3, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Behaving Properly Toward Outsiders Today

“so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”

1 Thessalonians 4:12

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      I see homeless men nearly every day.  I often talk with them, and learn many things from them.  Recently, a man shared with me how he was in an automobile accident, had his hip smashed, and had to undergo serious surgery.  It left him unable to walk for months.  After the hospital, he went to a rehab facility for about two weeks or so.  He arrived in a wheel chair, and then was discharged in a wheel chair with about twenty dollars and a bus ticket.  He was homeless when he went in and homeless when he came out.  This man wheeled his chair into church nearly every Sunday and made friends with the congregation.  Over time, he regained the ability to walk and work.  He performed work around the building and the people took care of him.  This man wanted to work, but was unable to work for a long time.  Although he can walk now, he cannot run.  Perhaps someday he will.  In the present economy in Florida, many homeless men actually seek work, but cannot find it.  While some men physically cannot work, and other men cannot find work which they are able to do, other people use Christianity as an excuse not to  work.

       In 1 Thessalonians 4:12, Paul talks about how we should live toward non-Christians, whom he calls “outsiders.”  We need to be careful how we live so that we will be good witnesses.  In a courtroom, the witness sits and talks from a chair.  The judge often looks carefully at the witness, and the attorneys look at the witness, and the jury looks at the witness.  In a non-jury trial, the judge often takes a longer look at the witness.  The judge will have to make a final decision about who is telling the truth, and that often depends upon the entire communication from the witness.  The judge evaluates the words, emotions, tone, posture and everything about the witness.  Furthermore, you can count upon cross-examination from the other attorney about your testimony.

       As Christians, we should expect cross-examination from outsiders.  They will look at us and see if we live unruly lives, or if we are busybodies, or if we depend upon charity because we refuse to work.   Let me be clear.  If you have worked for many years, and have paid into the unemployment compensation fund, and then were laid off, you have every right to seek unemployment compensation while you look for other work.  Likewise, if you worked and become disabled, you have every right to seek assistance from the government because you are no longer able to work.  Paul means that those Christians who are able to work, but do not seek work, cause unbelievers to lose respect for Christians.  With our mouths we proclaim Christ, but with our lives we proclaim laziness, if we refuse to work and are able to do so.  Paul links our ambitions to our testimony for Christ in the community.

       So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.

     ●  Strong bonds of friendship form when we remain careful to work and provide for ourselves, and encourage one another to work. 

    ●  Strong bonds of friendship grow when we provide work for other Christians, and preserve our testimony toward outsiders by not being in any need.  Christ provides for us every day. 

     ●  We harm our bonds of friendship when we become needy people in the community of outsiders because we refuse to work and live in need of government or social services.   

Application for Today

        Today, I want to encourage my Christian friends who can work, but refuse to work, to consider their testimony toward outsiders.  Will you work today and so behave properly toward outsiders?