Summary: God calls us to grow in our intimate relationship (if we are married), in our brotherly love, and in our attitude to work.
We have just read from a portion of the Bible which could be seen as impossible for a ‘Priest’ to relate to. After all (you might think to yourself), what would a ‘Priest’ know about the intimate relationship between a man and a woman! After all (you might think to yourself), what would a ‘Priest’ know about the world of work!
I was watching an old episode of the comedy ‘Father Ted’ earlier this week. Father Ted is chatting with one of his fellow-Priests and a Nun (in a delightful Irish accent) announces, “Father Ted, there’ll be a woman to see you.” Father Ted’s colleague says, “Ah, that’ll be a Nun now won’t it!” “No, no, she’s not a Nun, she’s definitely a woman. She’s wearing a skirt.” At this point, father Ted’s colleague goes into something of a panic, because of course, a woman wearing a skirt is way outside of his understanding.
As for the world of work, well I wonder if you’ve ever heard the old saying about the things that Priests and Vicars get up to during a normal working week: I once heard it said that a Priest is, “Six days invisible and one day incomprehensible.”
So what would a Priest know about the intimate relationship between a man and a woman; and what would a Priest know about the world of work? Well, I don’t claim to be an expert in either, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes; but I come to you with 16 years of marriage, 1 wife, 3 children, and 14 years in the Finance Industry prior to Ordination. So in the months and years ahead I hope that I can share God’s word with you together with some of my own experiences.
As we continue our study of this letter written by St. Paul, around 50 AD, let’s remember that it was written to a church. It was not written as a ‘complaint’ aimed at people in general; it was written to a church.
This letter was written to a group of people who had already experienced a major change in lifestyle. Prior to making a decision to give their hearts and their lives to the risen Lord Jesus, this group of people had been typical residents of the Greek city of Thessalonica. In other words, the men were probably married, but it was also very likely indeed that they would have had several other ‘partners’. It was accepted and almost expected that the men would have a variety of other ‘women’ in their life, and that’s putting it far too politely! However, after coming to a living faith in Jesus, this group of people were taught by St. Paul that God wants the intimate relationship between men and women to be confined to one man and one woman; so that the marriage relationship is a bit like a protective fence. So Paul now writes these instructions to the church, and he asks the members of the church to grow in their faith. St. Paul longed for people to grow closer to Jesus, to get to know him better, and to make him better known.
Twice in our Bible reading (1 Thess 4:1 and 10) we hear Paul urging the church to listen to him, to live lives pleasing to God, to have brotherly (and sisterly) love for one another, and “to do so more and more.” Paul says, “Do this more and more.”
This is a call to growth! If you’re honest with yourself, have you been growing this week? I don’t mean in feet and inches (especially as one or two of you have said you are currently shrinking in height), but I mean in your relationship with God. Are you growing?
So Paul instructs the church: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thess 4:3). God’s will is that we continue to be changed by him daily, so that we become more and more the people He wants us to be, and for the Thessalonican church that meant a complete break with having various sexual relationships all at the same time.
That is God’s will for us too. So for me, I can please God by having eyes for my wife only. I took a funeral recently and the couple had been married for nearly 60 years. The lady said, “We only ever had eyes for each other.” Some of you were married to people like that. What a blessing they were! Some of you are married to people like that. What a blessing they are! Some of you will be married to people like that. What a blessing they will be! “We only ever had eyes for each other.” That is God’s will for us; and to those who have never been married, God wants us to be honourable towards each other.