Monday 07 December 2020

Bible Book:
1 Thessalonians

For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. (v. 7)

1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12 Monday 7 December 2020

Psalm 43


For most of this week, the Bible readings come from Paul’s letters to the emerging Christian community or church in Thessalonica, Greece. Paul, a leader of the early Church, is writing about different aspects of their behaviour in the anticipation of the return of Christ. In this passage Paul has some gentle words of warning and encouragement on two subjects that we often find hard to talk about: sex and money! Ultimately, these verses are a call to holy living (verse 7), and to see our bodies and resources as belonging to God.

The first part (verses 1-8) is about sexual immorality. The Thessalonian Christians lived in a largely pagan society, in which sex was worshipped, fornication was tolerated and even encouraged, and the priestesses were often in effect prostitutes. The grip of lust on a society like that was very powerful.

Paul explains that sex, as God intended, can be beautiful and life-giving (in every sense), making the bond between loving partners even stronger. On the other hand, abusive sex, or sex outside faithful relationships can be degrading, damaging and addictive. It can break up families, and cause pain to spouses or partners. Jesus himself urged his followers to the highest standards of faithfulness (Matthew 5: 27-30). Paul urges the Thessalonian Christians to guard their sex-lives carefully, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Punishment always follows adultery, Paul says. And whether that’s through "an avenging God", or simply through the breakdown of trust and the corrosive aftermath that adultery causes, the effects are often something that forgiveness can perhaps mend, but never completely restore. Paul’s warning to them is out of pure love and concern.

The second part (verses 9-12) is about the economics of God’s new community. ‘Love’ in these verses equals ‘practical love’, which equals ‘giving’. The early Christians pooled their resources, and shared things in common so that no one would be in need (Acts 2: 43-47). The Thessalonian church was no exception and generous in their approach.

At some point the communal-living approach stopped in Christianity. One reason could have been that people abused the system. Like sex, economics as God intended can be beautiful and life-giving: when all who can work are given the opportunity to put their talents and skills to use for the good of the whole community. But when goodwill is abused, or systems taken advantage of for personal gain, then the whole community can be damaged.

To Ponder:

  • Where today is sex too readily available? And how can Churches help to address this sensitively?
  • In what ways today do Churches use money to express their communal love?
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