Hi friends! Today we continue our journey through 1 Thessalonians as Paul writes some instructions for how a Christian should live and what things to avoid. Nothing here is particularly new to us by now (avoid sexual sin, some paraphrased versions of the 10 commandments, be encouraging, etc.) But one thing that sticks out to me is Paul's words that a Christian should "live a quiet life and stick to yourself for people will respect your faith for how you live." That not only seems in stark contrast to the vision I have of Paul and the message of western Christianity. When I think of Paul, especially a younger Paul who wrote this letter, I think of a bombastic youthful man who walks straight into temples and proclaims a "turn or burn" sort of preaching trying to get people to follow Jesus and not the law. Further, when I think of Western Christianity I think how *loud* the faith is. We have Christmas and Easter as national holidays, we have hhuuugggeeeee Christian music festivals, multi million dollar churches with AV equipment that puts most concert venues to shame, and a massive business in selling Christian merchandise each year. Yet, we also have people that fear the Christian faith is being oppressed or demonized in the states as we make room for more interfaith practices and grow into an increasingly secular/ecumenical culture. If we know anything, we know that people who are in fear get loud and angry and whoooo boy loud and angry they are. But Paul writes to the people two thousand years ago that if you want to show the merits of your faith - be quiet and stick to yourself. I'm left pausing on this line and thinking about it. What line will stick out to you? Let's fine out!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this reveal to me about God, Christianity, and/or Paul?
How does this change my understanding of the second coming, if at all?
Paul writes that he knows we are people of love but encourages us to love even more....what does it mean to "love even more"?
- Commentary -
Not a ton I want to add here but I think it's worth mentioning some happy news. Unfortunately in reading Paul's words we can often get the feeling that he is lamenting against a church for not being good enough or for making mistakes or for falling short of the goal. In fairness, we are humans and we are flawed and we do frequently fall short of the goal....but we also do some pretty amazing things too. Thessalonians is an example of a church that is "good" by Paul's standards. While churches like Corinth would remain a touchy relationship for Paul or the people of Galatia would quibble about who belongs and what rites of passage are required for entrance, the people of Thessalonian would largely remain meritorious. He writes in this first letter that they should be "imitators" of him and Timothy and will later commend them as "examples" for other churches.
If Paul were to write a letter to our church and specifically to you - what points would he make as examples of good works and what points would he make of areas of improvement? Consider taking a moment to write a letter to yourself or our church in the voice of Paul and use it an example of how you can move from an imitator to an example of Christian living. Who was someone who you tried to imitate in work, life and faith? Who are you hoping to be an example to? Take a moment to pray for those people in gratitude and in mercy.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is from hymn 326 - The Head that Once Was Crowned. I invite you to join with me in prayer as we meditate on this hymn together.
1. The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now; a royal diadem adorns the mighty victor's brow.
2. The highest place that heaven affords belongs to him by right; the King of kings and Lord of lords, and heaven's eternal light.
3. The joy of all who dwell above, the joy of all below, to whom he manifests his love, and grants his name to know.
4. To them the cross with all its shame, with all its grace, is given; their name an everlasting name, their joy the joy of heaven.
5. They suffer with their Lord below; they reign with him above; their profit and their joy to know the mystery of his love.
6. The cross he bore is life and health, though shame and death to him, his people's hope, his people's wealth, their everlasting theme.