By Brock Bondurant
1 Thessalonians 4:11 – “… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,”
“Living a Quiet Life”… and I’m the one writing this??? That’s hilarious. I don’t live very quietly.
I’ve always been “out-going,” gregarious as they say. I’ve been known to draw attention in a crowded room, be the life of the party, and speak to large groups. Perhaps suffering from middle child syndrome, I found my worth by being involved in several activities at a time; not just worth in my involvement, but worth in my performance. I craved being the center of attention. All of those traits (gregariousness, public speaking, life of the party) are not bad in and of themselves. They’re probably good things, but I used them to gain attention, living loudly in order to find some sense of self-worth. What’s worse? Looking back I can sense some arrogance in all those performative, attention-seeking attributes. Which I guess makes sense – they always say that your biggest pet peeve about other people is the thing that you most resent about yourself… arrogance it is!
I want to share something that a business leader shared one day with me as we were talking about marriage. He said that the great struggle of our faith is to continuously remove ourselves from the center of our lives. This is our daily battle, he described, noting that marriage is a great catalyst for just that purpose. But we must (as life does) continually remind ourselves that we are not the point.
In chapter four of this letter to the Church in Thessalonica, Paul exhorts his readers to live a life pleasing to God. He explains to the Thessalonians how to practice the way of Jesus, he encourages his readers to aspire to live quietly. Talk about a direct antonym to the current cultural climate: live quietly is NOT what we are hearing from the pop culture of our society. We are told to BE LOUD, BE HEARD, and BE NOTICED! Once again makes Jesus pretty counter-cultural.
We’ve discussed Christ’s humility – the direct opposite of arrogance (I should pay attention). When given the chance to describe himself in his own words, Jesus chooses two: gentle and lowly (Matthew 11:29), but he backs it up. Walking in humility (read Philippians 2:1-11) Christ lives within Paul’s exhortation to live a quiet life.
How many times within the accounts of his life (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) do we see a miracle performed by Jesus only to be followed by the words “Don’t tell anyone”? He even tells a man on one occasion to “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). Jesus directs praise back to God; which if you read the next verse, “And [the man] went away, proclaiming how much Jesus had done for him,” does bring praise back to himself (only Jesus can do that). In Mark 1:35 Jesus literally removes himself from the center of attention by retreating away from the crowds. This occurs at a time of great momentum, which the disciples clearly point out (Mark 1:37). Jesus gives a physical example of how to remove ourselves from the center of our lives.
This is certainly a great struggle for all of us. Take into consideration the way we elevate celebrities in our culture. We put them on pedestals that perhaps no human being should bear. When celebrities fall and make mistakes, we respond with outrage and hate towards them, failing to acknowledge that we are not far from making the same mistakes. Most of us just don’t collect enough attention to be publicly destroyed at that level. Knowing that I make or could easily make the same mistakes, it’s best if I don’t aspire for attention. Rather, I should choose to love others and live quietly.
This all comes down to being like Jesus. What good can I do today withouta telling anyone? How can I, without drawing special attention to myself, enhance lives today? How can I choose the lowest seat at the table (Luke 14:10)?
Jesus must be the center of our lives. He can’t be the center if we don’t first remove ourselves. With him as your center, aspire to live quietly.