What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? Better yet how do I follow Christ? Especially without being a hypocrite? These some questions that I have been wrestling with these past several weeks.
Over the past 2 years my marriage has taught me a lot of lessons, it has taught me lessons on love, and how to actually live in love without being a hypocrite in my relationship. More often than not when we think of the word hypocrite we don’t usually think of our personal relationship but hypocrisy can spring up everywhere. I am big on words of encouragement and affirmation, I tell Katelyn daily that I love her, and tell her how beautiful she is. But if I don’t do anything to back up my words, they are simply empty.
I am reminded of the song More Than Words by the band Extreme. To summarize, the song is basically about a couple and how they should already know that they love each other by their actions not by their words. Words ultimately aren’t enough in any relationship. There is no better way to know if I have been hypocritical in my marriage than for Katelyn to be upset with me. Because 9 times out of 10 it is because my actions have not lined up with my words of “I love you.” Sometimes the best mirrors through which to examine ourselves are other people and people who are in relationship with us.
I love how scripture refers to the Church as the bride of Christ, because it gives us another lens to evaluate our relationship with Christ.
Paul in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians in verse 2-9 lays out for us what being a Christ follower looks like, thus showing us how to not be a hypocrite. Paul covers four areas in these verses: What a Christ follower does, how a person becomes a Christ follower, how a Christ follower lives, and how to recognize a Christ follower. Paul gives us a mirror in these 8 verses in which to examine ourselves and evaluate how we are following Christ. For the purposes of the blog I will only cover the first and third areas.
Paul was writing this letter to celebrate how great of a job the Church in Thessaloniki was doing. He even says they were doing such a great job that he and the other Apostles didn’t even need to tell anyone about them because everyone already knew.
In the first section Paul lays out for us what it is that a Christ follower does, and he gives 3 things that he says Christ followers do.
Christ followers: Work in faith, labor in love, and remain steadfast in hope.
Work in faith:
Paul is more often than not credited with being a guy who took a sort of passive approach to faith. But his life tells us a completely different story, there is perhaps no-one who worked harder in his faith than Paul. For Paul faith wasn’t simply belief, nor was faith simply action. For Paul as is mirrored in his life, faith is right belief coupled with right action.
Labor in love:
The concept of laboring in love points back again to a marriage relationship, or any relationship for that matter. If there is one thing I have learned throughout Katelyn and I’s journey to and through marriage is that love is not simply an emotion but that love is a choice. And this is true for all of our relationships and every aspect of what it means to love. Love takes work, and if we don’t work at it our relationships are going to struggle. Relationships are built, and the bricks which we build them with are laid with love. The more we work at loving, the stronger and more beautiful our relationship will be. And this holds true with our relationship with Christ.
Steadfast in hope:
For Paul in his context and the context of that of the Thessalonians remaining steadfast in hope meant to against all forms of persecution to remain steadfast that Christ would return and establish His kingdom on the earth. Here we are some 2,000 years later and Christ still has not returned to reign over the earth. So what does this then mean for us? It means that we too should remain steadfast in the hope that Christ will return for his Bride. But it also means that we should remain steadfast in the hope knowing that no matter what we face Jesus is always their for us. I want to say here that Paul isn’t saying that we should never question or doubt God. It has been my experience that these thoughts are perfectly normal because we are imperfectly human. But I will say that it has been from my moments of extreme doubt and questioning that I have come out on the other side stronger in my faith for it.
Paul goes on in his letter to explain how a Christ follower is to live and that is as an imitator and demonstrator of Christ. And it is through this that Paul says the world will know we are being true followers of Christ. Paul simplifies the formula for us, we can either choose to focus on whether or not we are working in faith, laboring in love, or steadfast in hope, or we can simply focus on following Jesus. When we turn our focus from the commandments to the commander our lives begin to change, and the world around us begins to see Jesus in us.
By: Tanner Hollier