We all need accountability. And we all need leadership. Any person who believes that they do not need to be accountable—or is beyond the need to be led by others—has seriously missed a basic point of being human: we’re flawed and prone to fail. Near the close of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul emphasized this point.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13:
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (ESV).
Paul writes these words right after he reminds the Thessalonian Christians of the great hope of Christ and the need for them to live pure lives (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3–6; 5:5–6). It is only after this reminder that Paul turns to the issue of respecting church leaders.
Paul’s transition can seem a little sudden and unexpected but it actually makes perfect sense. Paul understood that without accountability and strong leadership that the church at Thessalonica would fail. He also understood that he and others had made great personal sacrifices to establish the church (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12). Paul requests that the Christians at Thessalonica respect this sacrifice and thus listen to their leaders.
For Paul the issue of respecting leaders was directly tied to the peace of the church. It’s difficult for us to respect church leaders today, because of how many leaders have failed us. And this is why there is so little peace in our church communities. We’re prone to suspicion and individuality; we thus place our interests above Christian community.
I’m not suggesting blind trust here. I’m also not suggesting that you follow a leader while quietly “respectfully disagreeing.” Both responses are a type of passive-aggressive behavior that doesn’t do anyone any good. We should hold our leaders accountable and to a high standard. But leaders who self-sacrificially love Jesus—who are accountable to others—should be emulated. We should listen to their vision and the suggestions they make for our own lives. We should walk hand-in-hand with our leaders in transforming our churches and communities.
We all need accountability in our lives. We need people who will ask us if we are closely following Jesus. We need people who will admonish us to confess our sins and repent. Leadership and accountability can transform our lives and our communities.
Who are you accountable to—do you need more accountability in your life? Who are the church leaders you follow and how can you show them more love and respect?
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