Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…1 Thessalonians 4:11
What kind of reaction do these words create in you? For me, the opposite of quiet is noise, and in these times, we could describe our human experience as very noisy, no? If it isn’t the election news calling for my attention, it’s COVID news; if it isn’t news, it’s social media; if it isn’t social media, it’s my WhatsApp and email inboxes; if it’s not on my phone or computer, it’s my home, and believe me, my home is noisy!
All of this noise – for now, we can say neither good nor bad, just noise – is overwhelming, right? Is it just me? My days can feel chaotic, my mind a war zone, my attention so divided that no one entity gets what it needs, particularly those who need it most. While in decades and centuries past, it may have been more natural to lead quiet lives, it is anything but natural now. To lead a quiet life takes determination, intention, and even work.
And yet, as the noise increases each year, my desire for a quiet life increases along with it. We all talk of COVID fatigue, of election fatigue, of social media fatigue, and then there’s just normal physical and emotional fatigue. Truly, I don’t think our capacity as image bearers of God is to carry so much noise in our hearts, minds, and bodies. And, I wonder, does it not impact our ability to “love one another”? To “win the respect of outsiders”? To “not be dependent on anybody, or as other versions say, “not be in any need”?
It’s difficult to “not be in any need” when your inbox is flooded with curated advertisements highlighting your very interests, when we see dozens of commercials each week, when we follow many small and large businesses or influencers on social media pointing our attention toward the.next.thing. How often do we pause and consider, “do I actually need this?” Likely, if we did, the answer would be obviously, no. We have so much already that we need to read books on how to get rid of it; minimalism, which was once how most people lived, is now a trend; truly, when we slow down and consider deeply, there is very little we need. But it takes quiet to realize this.
It’s likewise difficult to “win the respect of outsiders” when our lives are so full that we rarely even talk with them; when Facebook or other platforms have become the medium for important conversations but rarely an effective one; when all outsiders are being portrayed to us as the enemies of our freedoms or values and we’ve forgotten that Jesus even said to love our enemies. What has happened to Christian witness in our times? It’s been slowly, methodically destroyed as we show the world how we can compromise, how we can be selfish, and how we can continually fail to love. But it takes quiet to see this.
And though it is wildly unpopular, I deeply trust that God’s way of life is far better than that of the world.
And it’s difficult to “love one another” when we haven’t a spare moment to give to each other; when we can’t set our phones down long enough to look our children or spouse in the eyes; when we haven’t noticed the needs of those in our neighborhood or church because we weren’t really looking. It takes quiet to do this.
More than ever, this appeal to a quiet life calls to me. Not only because as a human being, I realize I am not made to sustain the kind of noise the world is creating, but also because I realize I need it in order to live the kind of life to which God has called me. And though it is wildly unpopular, I deeply trust that God’s way of life is far better than that of the world.