Pastoral Care 101

In my personal Bible Reading earlier this week I came across a little nugget of wisdom that I have not been able to stop thinking about. It comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

” And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

What a beautiful thing it is for authentic community to share life together. This right here is “Pastoral Care 101” for the Church.  In fact, all of 1 Thessalonians is a gold mine of wisdom for Pastoral Care and living in authentic Christian Community with one another. But this particular verse is a clear and concise summary of what it should look like for Christians to live in a thriving and vibrant community together.

  • admonish the idle
  • encourage the fainthearted
  • help the weak
  • be patient with them all

It is good for us to have people to help us out when we struggle with our humanness. Lets just face it, at times we all struggle with being idle. We are lazy and prone to self-indulgence rather than doing what we ought. Of course the root cause of idleness is idolatry. It is never really a pleasant experience, but it is good for us to be admonished when that beast rears its ugly head. It is good when we can speak the truth in love to one another.

My observation is that, in the Western Church, we have become very adept at admonishing the idle or idolatrous. We are very good at identifying sin in one another and pointing it out. This is a good thing and is not something that we should push back against, but rather should be willing to press into one another in humility and repentance. However, admonishing the idle is actually the easiest part of Pastoral Care. 

I would suggest that sometimes we need to be admonished for admonishing the idle. If we choose to see all human suffering as a direct result of personal sin, then we ourselves are being idle. Simply pointing out that a person is a sinner is usually the lazy option to take. Sin does cause significant suffering in our lives and we must do what we can to overcome it. Sometimes however, there are deeper issues of discouragement and weakness that are at the root of our suffering. Life is had and complicated. Are we willing to take the time to understand the complexities of one another’s suffering in the context of authentic community?

What I love about this passage in 1 Thessalonians is that this ancient wisdom from God is actually the crux of Trauma-informed psychotherapy. Modern day science is once again pointing us to the deeper wisdom that God has already revealed to us about how to best care for His creation. 

Our God knows that we are a people who are easily discouraged and incredibly fragile. In fact, if ever there was a human who could completely relate to the significance of trauma on the human condition, that person is Jesus Christ. The Bible refers to Jesus as, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isiah 53: 3). Jesus understands the most traumatising elements of being human, because He lived and experienced them Himself. This is why it is so significant when God tells us to care for one another by admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak and being patient with them all. God is not simply a disconnected outsider offering us objective advise about ‘living our best lives’. He knows our pain because He Himself has experienced it in full. Does this not just leave you in awe of how radically you are known and loved!

We must not stop at admonishing the idle. If we are to be imitators of God we will look beyond the surface level sin and seek to encourage the fainthearted, to help the weak and to be patient with everyone. We are all on a journey and God’s grace is sufficient for us all.

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