“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14+15/KJV).
“Be patient toward all men.” This is an instruction for Christian believers. Yet Paul exhorts them to be patient not only with other church members but with anybody they meet.
Yet the whole of verse 14 seems to refer especially to people who belong to the fellowship of Christians. Even within the church you can find different kinds of people. Paul says some need to be exhorted and warned, others need to be comforted or supported.
Being of German origin, as I read this verse in the King James Version first I was not that sure what to make of the word ‘unruly’. I was looking at the NIV and found ‘unruly’ was replaced by ‘idle’. At least I could understand the word ‘idle’. Yet, to be honest, I found the word ‘idle’ somewhat uninspiring.
I decided to look for ‘unruly’ in “The Concise Oxford Dictionary”. The explanation I discovered is worth mentioning: “not easily controlled or disciplined; disorderly.”
Having read this verse you may conclude that the ‘unruly’ or ‘idle’ are the bad guys and they need to be warned. The others, the timid and the weak are the good ones. You just need to encourage and support them. Yet I wonder if that is really true.
To me it seems that both groups are very similar in some respect. They all lack activity, some because they apparently just don’t care, others don’t have the necessary will-power or the know-how to go about things. Some may be willing but feel discouraged.
This is why I feel it may not be wise to determine which individual strictly should be considered one of the lazy, of the feeble-minded, or the weak. Rather it seems to me that in various situations people will react differently. Furthermore, depending on what is your craft or your skill you may feel uneasy about doing certain things but you may reveal great discipline in doing something else.
For this reason I would suggest that a pastor or any mature believer should empathically think about how to help somebody reach the standards of Christian living called for. Some may merely need a push. An exhortation or warning may help them excel. For others you may need to find out ways how to really encourage them: “Doing it this or that way you can succeed!” Many will require somebody to give a helping hand, somebody who will actually show them how to go about things.
Finally I feel the suggested activities may not be helpful any time. We need to assess what the other person is currently concerned with to find an appropriate way to address her or him.
The major principle is to be patient with all men. You need to remain kind and never seek to retaliate in any respect. Then you will be a good follower of St. Paul’s words quoted above.