It’s a jungle out there! Make no mistake. Whether we look at the corporate world, political world, educational world, or business world, it’s the same. “Cover your back” is the mantra of the upwardly mobile executive. The “law of the jungle” prevails in the business world where it is the survival of the fittest. The expression “dirty politics” has almost become a redundant expression in our modern world. No need for the adjective anymore! In the highly competitive academic world, young people are taught to trust no one. It is every man for himself, with the self-given permission to do whatever it takes to gain a piece of the great Western dream.
Into this culture, the gospel comes with startling dissonance. As the gospel is received, it produces a totally different mentality in its recipient. Behavior changes, attitudes change, mind-sets undergo total reshaping in light of divine principles.
It was a man short of stature but long on principles who made his way into Greece almost two millennia ago. As he preached and worked with his hands, he displayed principles which reflected the gospel he preached. He had not come simply to preach and win converts. He came to effect the transforming of lives; to turn men to God from their idols. That turning was more than a physical alteration in religious posture, it was a total transformation of the person. Conscious of this, Paul lived reflecting the gospel and commending it to men.
After leaving Thessalonica, Paul heard of their persecution and trial. As he wrote to them, he was able to refer to twin principles which ever guided his behavior. In chapter 2, he refers on perhaps four occasions to the expression, “Ye know …” Linked with this, he also could, when motive was in question, say, “God is my witness.” These two truths summarized what controlled Paul’s behavior as he moved amongst men: He was marked by Tenderness of Conscience (“God is witness”) and Transparency of Conduct (“Ye know”).
These two principles served Paul well as he was always able to remind those to whom he wrote that his behavior was not contrary to the principles to which he was exhorting them. None could claim that Paul did not practice what he preached. His transparency of life before men answered every challenge and silenced every critic. It was because of a tenderness of conscience that he could move forward despite all the obstacles and opposition he encountered. He was conscious that it was “not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess 2:4).
But are these principles only for the pioneer evangelist moving into a heathen, pagan society? If nothing else, we share with him the heathen, pagan society of our 21st century western world. There is little difference between the society in which Paul moved and that within which we live. The principles themselves, however, are timeless and vital. These are not even principles for the evangelist alone. They need to be espoused by all who lead and take a public part in testimony for God. They need to be the norm for all believers as we live in “a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). It is our responsibility to commend the Word and Truth of God by both our lives and lips.