1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, 2 Chronicles 31:4-10, Ephesians 4:11-16
Consider this list:
Political decisions that seem to disregard “justice for all.”
Anxiety and depression.
Harassment and abuse.
Towns without clean water.
Refugees without a home.
Wars and rumors of wars.
Such is the daily hemorrhage of news. In view of such a list, it is tempting to lock the doors and pull the curtains. Keep your head down, do your job, protect those around you, and try to sock away enough money for retirement. No doubt there are times when such a response is necessary. It’s a survival mechanism. However, there are other times, maybe more times than we’d like to admit, when to retreat is a refusal of God’s will for us.
Consider these two statements:
Hold on to what is good.
Don’t hold back.
They sound almost contradictory. But in the context of today’s Scripture passages, the second actually complements the first, giving us clarity as to how God wants us to live. In light of all the darkness around us, our challenge is to not lose hope, but to “hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Goodness is just as strong a presence in our world as evil, stronger even, but evil gets all the headlines. We know this. So it takes a hearty faith to, as the Journey song says, “Don’t stop believing.”
But faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). We know this too. God’s will for us is that our belief then compels us to action. To not hold back, to not retreat, as tempting as it is, but to stay engaged and “pursue what is good for one another and for all” (v. 15). God calls us to live lives with open hands and open hearts and open minds and open homes and open wallets. This will take all your courage. The writer Annie Dillard describes such an all-in, full-on commitment this way: “to fling yourself at what you’re doing… to point yourself, forget yourself, aim, dive.” To live in a closed-off withdrawn way is the scrooge’s life—fearful there’s really not enough to go around, and believing evil really does win in the end.
Hold on to what is good. Don’t hold back. Fling yourself into life. In terms of what that looks like, yes, it varies according to the moment. But Scripture gives us some timeless directions.
Give thanks in everything.