By: Rev. Dr. Suzie Chamness
"Be alert. Lerts have more fun!!"
Not relevant to the story, perhaps, but a dear friend shared that with me and I thought about it. Staying alert, aware isn't easy but we are taught that as children and would do well to remember as an adult.
Paul brings the message of not being caught off guard as an unbeliever will do. But our problem is that "waiting" sounds boring to us. After all, when most of us think of waiting we think of many wrong or worrisome thing that takes a lot of our energy. Think about the last time you sat in a waiting room at a doctor's or a dentist's office. That is painful because we are impatient people. But the biblical notion of waiting is really active, and worry free.
In Thessalonians 5:6 Paul says, "Stay awake!" He writes, "So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." Here sleeping refers to negligence of our spiritual needs. It is the opposite of being "alert and sober."
There are morning people and evening people. Spiritually, we are called to be "morning people" for God. There are many spiritual sleepwalkers who are caught up in the activities of the world. It is much easier for to sleep or sleepwalk through my daily life. I would point out that research has demonstrated there is little if any difference between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians. In some cases, Christians act more immoral and unethical than many non-Christians. How this must look to someone who first enters our churches. There is work, ministry, marriage, and all the rest of life. All of these take time and energy. Unless we are intentional, it is easy to neglect our spiritual time. We are not meant to be sleepwalkers in our spiritual life. We cannot go around all day in our silk pajamas! Wake up and be alert!
In verse 7 of 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us to "clean up." He writes, "For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night." The pointing to drinking is directing our attention to our self-control and alertness. Our behavior should not be influenced by the fact that there are those who would criticize us for being GLBT people of God. I hesitate using the word Christian since I am not sure I want to be put in the same class as the right wing conservative non-understanding and critical ones we see in the news and boast of their being the right way and only the right way be characterized by the sin of unbelievers.
If you think as the popular saying of the time, "Would you like to be doing what you are doing if you knew Jesus were planning to come tomorrow. I hope that I can always say yes to that statement. It is not easy to stop throwing back at those who are not tolerant. We even seem to become a bit self righteous thus becoming just like the right wing who claim they are right. But we are correct aren't we??
We are challenged to so love Christ that when He comes we will be found doing the things that earn His praise, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21) .
With this motivation, Paul says, "Dress up.". In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 he claims, "But since we are of the day let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation."
This comes from Isaiah and refers to God's spiritual armor. The armor guards against the world. In this context, the breastplate has two features: faith and love. "Faith" protects the heart. If we live by faith, we will be prepared for daily spiritual encounters. Faith and faithfulness will help us persevere life in Christ. "Love" is a part of the protection of the breastplate. Our faith must result in love.
In the word of Timothy, Paul says we are to love Christ and anticipate our "well done faithful servant" when the time comes. This will arm us for the challenges as we encounter people of +closed minds and hearts.
"If you knew Jesus was going to return today and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? Don't wait."
I hope and pray that we can all be courageous in communicating our feelings to our loved ones and those we can witness of the love of Christ. Don't get caught sleeping! Live out your love.
Rev. Dr. Suzie Chamness is an MCC minister and chaplain. She just completed her D.Min. thru Andersonville Theological Seminary.
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