Monday 12th October 2020 – 1 Thessalonians – Live in Holiness and Charity
1 Thessalonians 4: 1 – 12
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.
At ordination and induction ministers and church related community workers make solemn vows including the, rather catch all, promise to live a holy life. Despite creative attempts to be unholy the URC has never fully defined what holiness, in that context, actually is.
In today’s passage Paul puts some meat on the bones for believers in the earliest Church. These new believers had to work out how to be faithful to Christ where Christianity was alien to the ideologies and practices of the age. Paul, the observant Jew, was horrified by the sexual mores of Roman society and here, clearly, is concerned that these new converts don’t wallow in Gentile sin. He doesn’t limit his view of holiness to sexual morality, however. Loving one another, supporting other communities of believers and keeping one’s head down were all forms of commended behaviour. The earliest believers had to find a balance between living a radical commitment to Christ, being different from the people around them in terms of belief and behaviour and, at the same time, having to live quietly and attend to their own affairs to avoid persecution.
We also live in a time which is not that unlike Paul’s. We live in a society with only limited knowledge of the claims of Christianity, where morals (and not just sexual ones) seem different to what’s gone before and where we debate the rights and wrongs of that. We too need to support others – other believers as well as those who are vulnerable and oppressed by our economic and social systems. Around the world believers still need to keep their heads down – not so much as a form of holiness but of survival.
Like the earliest believers we are called to be holy; what that means for us is informed by Paul’s words but has to be worked out, even in fear and trembling, in our own contexts.
O God, from whom all holy desires,
all good counsels,
and all just works do proceed;
give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
and also that, by thee,
we being defended from the fear of our enemies
may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.