“But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 NRSV).
This admonition from St. Paul is built upon important assumptions; namely, that (1) there is an ordained class of presbyters (old Middle English “priests”) that labor among the people; (2) that the local church has a particular order; and (3) that this clerical order speaks the Word of God into the Body of Christ, at times, even with some severity. This order also has spiritual “charge” or authority over the souls of those under their care.
The whole of their work deserves the respect and love of the people. The mandate to be at peace “among yourselves” appears to be more than a singular exhortation, but a command that is intrinsically linked to love and honor for the ministers of the congregation. Peaceableness in any given parish of the Body of Christ is realized, at least in part, by the presence of a loving fatherly order of ministry speaking words of spiritual guidance to the church with appropriate Biblical honor and love in response.
This will require a commitment to ministry that is based upon Biblical metaphors (shepherd, father) rather than worldly alternatives (rock star, community organizer). This also demands a church with a self-identity as a family, with love and honor for those in God-appointed roles within the family. In both cases the prescription for peace in the local church is built upon a rejection of secular patterns of leadership and membership and a willingness to embrace the radical, counter-cultural vision of loving submission and complete vocational dedication.