We live in a pleasure/pain culture: what’s pleasurable is good, what’s painful is bad. Paul’s call to holiness in 1 Thessalonians 4 — to seek to please God more and more by living his way, even when it’s hard — doesn’t make much sense in a culture like ours. But what if pleasing God also brings pleasure? Paul believes it does, and shows us how pleasing God helps us to understand and express our sexual desires.
Loneliness, the social scientists tell us, is an epidemic in Australian culture. We long for deep connection with others, but we frequently fail to find it. In contrast, Paul and the Thessalonians share an astoundingly frank and affectionate connection — sticky; gooey; and yet able to withstand loving conflict. Where do they find the personal and spiritual resources to throw themselves into deep connection with one another, with vulnerability and without fear?
The church in the town of Thessalonica was brand new, and already separated from their founder and leader. And so the Apostle Paul writes to inspire and instruct them how to keep growing in their new faith, in what is a wonderfully encouraging letter, as they live in faith, hope and love, serving while they wait for Jesus.
How do you believe when believing is hard? Jesus tells us three things about believing: believing is not (only) about evidence; believing is not about competence; believing is about relationship. When you get those three things, it’s possible for your belief in God to deepen — even through the things that make believing hard.
A love greater than all other loves; a love which will rightly order all other loves; nothing less than this is what Jesus calls us to in being his disciples. And it makes sense, because he took up the cross - our cross - so that in his grace we can also take up the cross as we we follow him. Listen to this grace and call of Jesus.