Our world is one that wants to get noticed. You need only look on Facebook where it seems everyone has to comment on everything, stream live what they are doing, and make themselves look as witty and wonderful as possible.
Or go to Instagram. People leaving pictures of themselves in exotic places or on a beach in their best bikini. The women, not the men. Sometimes younger people who are trying to get noticed by someone somewhere upload selfies they’ll wish they could unload someday.
Or move on to Reality TV. People who don’t do much of anything getting filmed so we can watch them not doing much of anything. Like a crash that is about to happen many cannot resist watching them. Which is exactly what they want us to do.
It’s a loud day we live in. People clamoring to be noticed using our modern-day connectedness of social media, streaming TV, and the internet to make themselves heard. People work hard at getting noticed.
It’s the way of our world today. But it wasn’t the way for the early church in Thessalonica, a city that was home to Greek gods as well as the Roman imperial cult. An oath of loyalty to Caesar would be administered to its people. It was also home to Jews. By the time the Apostle Paul arrived we can be sure there were Jews in this city living under the threat of worshiping a God other than Caesar.
Paul entered their synagogues and preached that “Jesus is the Christ.” “Christ” means “anointed one.” That title belonged to Caesar. Preaching that “Jesus is the Christ” caused an uproar. The city got real noisy. Paul had to sneak out by night.
Later, Timothy reported to Paul that the Thessalonian Christians had undergone more persecution and suffering. They were just hanging onto their faith. So Paul writes, “…aspire to live quietly.”
“Aspire” originally had the sense of “the pursuit or love of honor or distinction.” A person would work hard at promoting the spread of their name. They would do this through acts of benefaction or by getting their name inscribed on columns or in pavements. It was the first-century form of Twitter.
Paul tells his friends to do just the opposite of the culture. “…aspire to live quietly…” has the paradoxical meaning of “to work hard at not working hard.” He is not telling them to not work. Just don’t work hard at being noticed.
That was a countercultural message then. And it’s a countercultural message now. We live in an age where the one that gets noticed is the loud one, the humorous one, or the extroverted one. Now you not only have to sell a product. You have to sell yourself.
Paul says not to. And that’s good news for people who don’t fit that mold. When you’re told to “do big things for God” but you struggle to juggle all the plates you’ve got going in the air and just get through the day, you may wonder if God can use you.
Turns out he can. We don’t have to be obsessed with pushing ourselves into the public eye. We can be content to be unknown and unnoticed if that is the Lord’s will. We can make it our ambition to not be ambitious about getting noticed. We can be quiet and affect our world.
Rosa did. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a public bus pulled up to its stop in the early evening and a woman in her forties, dressed nicely, walked up the steps, entered the bus, and sat in the front row of the “Colored” section. The bus filled with riders and the bus driver asked her to give her seat to a white passenger.
This quiet, introverted woman inadvertently started a civil rights movement with one word: “No.” When Rosa Parks died in 2005, obituaries called her “soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature.”
Want to make a difference in this world? Don’t start a riot. Just be quiet.
Question: What are some “quiet” ways in which you can make a difference?