As Paul approaches the end of this letter, he returns to one of the most common themes in his letters: encouraging Christians to live in such a way so as to please God. Yes, the Thessalonians were already living such lives – but Paul urges that they do so even more. This side of eternity, no Christian can ever say honestly that they are living the perfect Christian life. If we were, we would be Jesus – which I certainly am not. Up until the day he returns and makes us new, we can always seek to please God more and more by how we live.
God’s will for us is that we be holy. We are to be imitators of God, after all, and God is holy. Holiness extends to every part of our life, but here Paul highlights one area that many struggle with: being holy in regards to our sexuality. Paul is blunt: Christians are to stay away from all sexual sins. Abstinence from sexual immorality is key to controlling our own bodies. We should be striving to live in holiness and honour – not in lustful passion like those who don’t know God and his ways. It sounds obvious to say that Christians shouldn’t conduct affairs with another Christian’s spouse. To do so is to harm that other Christian. To say nothing about the harm that is being done to the perpetrators! Who are we to think that GOd doesn’t know what happens behind closed doors – that God will let us get away with such behaviour? No. The Lord avenges all such sins. Of course, there is forgiveness for those who repent. Sexual immorality is by no stretch of the imagination an unforgivable sin. But sexual sin is by definition antithetical to living a holy life. And it is certainly not the sort of behaviour that the Holy Spirit prompts within us. In fact, to engage in sexual sin is to refuse to listen to the prompting of the indwelling Spirit; is to allow other voices to speak louder than that of God. The answer: stay away. Lord – help us, and me – to live a holy rather an impure life.
God’s will is also that we should love each other. The Thessalonians were well known for their love. But Paul still urged them to love other believers more and more. There is no such point as “enough” when it comes to showing love to others. Lord, help us – help me – to love others.
God’s will is also that we live “a quiet life, minding our own business, working with our hands”. Now, that doesn’t mean a desk job is against the will of God! What Paul is describing here is a kind of life that would be respected by those outside the church – and one that doesn’t see us needing to depend on others. Lord help me to live a life that could be respected by my neighbours and friends.
Of course, there will come a time when this life ends. And this is what inspires how I want to live my life today. Because this life is not all that there is. Key to Christianity is this belief: Jesus died and was raised to life again. And Jesus is coming back again. If this is true, then I can be sure that even if I die, I will be raised to life with Jesus. There will come a day when he returns. A day when all of his people – whether they have died or are still alive – will meet with him and then be with him forever. When a Christian dies, there will be grief – of course. But of a different sort. A grief that laments the loss in the present, but hopes for the reunion on the Day of the Lord.
Paul writes that we should “encourage one another” with his words about the resurrection. Encourage the grieving? Yes, but more than that: we should encourage each other now as we live this side of Christ’s return: our life here is not meaningless, how we live today is important. The choices we make today are important. In particular the choice of whether to follow Jesus or not. And also the choice of whether we will seek to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you that he died and that you raised him from the dead. Thank you, Jesus that you are coming back again one day soon. Lord, please help me to live a life that is pleasing to you until then. Help me to live a pure life – one that is marked by holiness. Lord, help me to love others – with even a fraction of the love that you have shown towards me. And Lord, help me to live a life that earns the respect of the world outside the church. Thank you that this life matters. I’m so sorry for all the ways in the past that my life has failed to please you. Thank you for your Spirit. Thank you that you are the God of second chances. Thank you that not only call me to live a life that pleases you, but that you whisper and urge and encourage and form that new life within me. Please don’t stop re-creating me. I want you to return Jesus: I want to be completely like you. There’s a lot of work to do… please help me to set my eyes on the prize: Jesus and his return.