Anyone who has been around small children probably speaks a familiar refrain: “Be nice.” From sharing toys to keeping hands to themselves to minding their own business, little kids have a lot to learn about ways to get along in community with others. This learning gets easier as they mature and recognize that other people matter as much as they do.
We have to tell children to “be nice,” but what about adults? From gossiping about how “old” so-and-so looks to making a snarky remark to a coworker to resenting our family members, adults still have a lot to learn about being nice. Why do we behave this way? There are likely many reasons. Envy. Exhaustion. Stress. Feeling misunderstood or unappreciated. Greed. Loneliness.
If we are children of God, though, none of those reasons are strong enough to excuse repeated bad behavior. In our lesson text, the writer reminds believers that they “have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess 4:9). They know what it means to follow Christ. The expectations are clear. The same is true for us.
In spite of their knowledge, it seems that they’re having some struggles being nice. In fact, the writer urges them to show Christ-like love “more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one” (vv. 10-11). Basically, just be nice.
Our hectic schedules make it hard not to rush through times meant for rest and recharging. This causes our attitudes and corresponding behaviors to veer away from Jesus’s example. We start to think our needs are the most important needs around and that no one else deserves our consideration. Just like these faithful Thessalonian believers, and just like small children, we need a reminder. Let’s be nice!
• Why do you imagine the Thessalonians needed this reminder if they were such faithful “brothers and sisters” who knew how “to love another” (v. 9)?
• What happens in a community (such as a church) that causes people to be resentful, bitter, nosy, and other undesirable traits?
• What did Jesus teach us about loving one another?
• How does living quietly and minding our own affairs make a community stronger? When might it be important to do the opposite for a stronger community?
• What are the areas in your life where you could strive to “just be nice”?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.
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