Inspiration Trumps Command

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Photo Credit: James LeVeque

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Friends, we want you to respect your hard-working leaders when they tell you what to do, and not only to respect but love them. And no fighting amongst yourselves – put the troublemakers on notice. Cheer the depressed and help the weak. Be patient with them. No tit-for-tat. Scratch each other’s backs. Be joyful. Pray. Be grateful. God wants you to be grateful. Don’t be a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm for God, but check everything carefully, keeping the good, rejecting the evil.

Hugh MacLeod drew a cartoon a few weeks ago about the leader who demands to be loved. Hugh says, “There’s something very funny and slightly tragic about a guy who tries very hard to command respect, but fails miserably.” Because you can’t command respect, let alone love. You can only earn it. And it’s something that has to be continually re-earned in every interaction.

And, though Hugh was referring to corporate culture, the same is true in your family, in your church, in your bridge club. Wherever. People are people. They’re not yours to command, even if they are your employees, your children, your spouse, your volunteers, your clients, your parishioners, or your committee members. You can’t make them like you. You can’t by your command make them be joyful. You can’t make them pray. You can’t keep them from fighting with each other. You can’t make them be grateful.

What you can do is command yourself. You can find your own reason to be joyful, or grateful, or both. You can unilaterally unplug from the argument. You can voice your own respect for someone else. You can tell someone you love them. You can pray. You can do this yourself. Not because by doing so you will somehow begin to command anyone else to follow your example. But because, strangely enough, when you focus on yourself and what you can do, you’re just a little more inspiring for those who are inclined to.