Saturday 29 November 2014

Bible Book:
1 Thessalonians

“Indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more.” (v. 10)

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 Saturday 29 November 2014

Psalm: Psalm 72


Again Paul swings between encouragement and exhortation... hesees the good things the Thessalonians are doing, their generousand far-reaching love, but he still finds room for improvement, "doso more and more". He has returned to his theme of love, here usingtwo different Greek words; 'philadelphia', in the early part ofverse 1 might express that human love which naturally arisesamongst members of a family. This, however, is surpassed by'agape', the self-giving, sacrificial love, which can only betaught by God and which they are also learning to receive and toshare throughout Macedonia. This kind of loving characterises thealternative to behaving like unrelated males of a species, alwaysin competition, which he may be criticising in 1Thessalonians 4:6a. As residents in the region's capital city,their example of love for all is important and far-reaching; "Bythis the world shall know that you are my disciples, if you havelove one for another".(link to hymn)

There are suggestions that these early Thessalonian Christiansmay have been largely craftsmen and labourers of a relatively lowsocial status, for there is no mention, as in other epistles, of apatron, or a wealthier member who provides the meeting place. Theirconversion to Christianity has set them apart from theircommunities in a variety of ways, as Paul has already stressed. Forthe first-century Greek, kinship, politics, economics and religionswere inextricably entwined; if, following conversion, theseChristians were now abstaining from some aspects of society theywere likely to be accused of antisocial behaviour, threatening theeconomy of the temples, the meat trade etc. So here Paul seems tobe urging them not to draw excessive attention to themselves, butrather to keep a low profile, to "live quietly" (v. 11) and therebyavoid attracting antipathy from 'out groups'. With yet another useof the same Greek word we met on Wednesday and Friday,'peripatein', translated in verse 12 as "behave", Paul isrecommending a culture akin to that of a respectable family, whichis how he increasingly sees this early congregation.

To Ponder

  • Does Paul's repeated phrase "do so more and more" challenge youto 'raise your game'? To what extent are you sometimes too easilycontented with a way of life which is not as transformed as itmight be?
  • Does "living quietly" appeal to you? Or do you feel the Churchshould be making more noise, agitating more for justice,challenging oppression?
  • The 'Reign of Christ' is seen in these verses and in Psalm72 as a reign of generous love. How can our lives and the lifeof our churches express that love more and more? 
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