Hello, well done for making it to Friday. In today’s Foundation Podcast we’re looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
This week we’ve been reflecting on what we can learn about relationships from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Today rounds off this week nicely as it is directly addressing this topic of relating to others. Paul is giving some direct instruction with regards to sexuality. People, Christians and non Christians alike, can often see the Bible as a book of dos and do nots. A guide on how to appease an angry God determined to stamp out all fun from our lives. If you’ve been listening to these podcasts even for a few days I hope you’ve heard enough of the Bible to realise this isn’t true. Today’s passage starts with a line that is helpful in understanding why Paul writes this letter. His use of the phrase ‘I ask you and urge you’ hopefully show that he’s not presenting soulless rules that exist for the sake of existing. He desperately wants his friends in Thessalonica to live more and more like Jesus. To live in the way of freedom that is both for our benefit and for the glory of God.
It’s also important to note that this isn’t a passage suggesting sex is bad. We get hung up on sexuality in the Church but this isn’t a passage full of condemnation. Tom Wright, a theologian, retired Bishop and writer of some very helpful and easy to read Bible commentaries says that ‘sexuality is a good gift of the wise creator’. This is a passage about who we all are, how to relate to others and why getting it right is so important. It is a passage far more wide reaching than we may instantly give it credit for.
Let me read verses 4-5 to us again. This time from The Message translation of the Bible. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God. Matter matters. You might have heard that phrase before. God chose to give us physical bodies. How we use them, how we take care of our bodies and how we treat other people are all important things to consider. The passage goes on to say this particularly applies to fellow believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul reminds us why it is so important to respect ourselves and others. In verse 8 he says ‘God who gives you his Holy Spirit’. God’s Spirit lives in us. In each of us. The Holy spaces of the Old Testament temples have been exchanged for our very own bodies. God’s Spirit lives in us! This incredible truth that tells us so much about who God is and how He sees us comes with consequences. Namely, that when we hurt others, when we sin, we do that not just to the people around us but to the God whose Spirit lives in them too. Paul uses the terminology of rejecting God. When we abuse or hurt others we are rejecting God.
Of course we know about grace by now, and as we heard earlier this isn’t a passage of condemnation. But once again we’re reminded of how healthy relationships and treating others with respect is massively important in living the Jesus life. The question for us today is this, are there places where our actions or attitudes towards others need to change? Paul stated at the start of the passage that the Thessalonians were doing well in this regard but to be watchful that they don’t let this slip. Let us be equally vigilant today.
Thank you Father that your Spirit lives in us. What an incredible truth. Please help us to treat others with respect. Where we need to adjust our attitudes Lord, help us to repent and turn back to you, choosing to see others how you see them. Amen.
READING: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.</em
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.