Looking back on the first half of 1 Thessalonians, I realized something important: there really wasn’t anything to complain about in it. The first half of this letter was mostly harmless. True, there wasn’t much good in it, but there wasn’t much bad. All in all, I’d call that a wash.
Chapter 4DRINK! In case you missed it, I came up with a new drinking game. You have to do a shot every time that Paul denigrates sexuality. And he does so here, saying that the Thessalonians must abstain from sexual immorality, denying sex for such base things as passion and lust. Sex should only be done for holiness and honor, of course! That nutty ol’ Paul.
Paul then touches on homosexuality, for the first time in a few books. He does so in a surprisingly measured statement, “you must never take advantage or exploit a brother in this regard.” It is a statement of fact, not a judgement nor commandment.
Well, I guess that is a little bit of a commandment.
Paul then has a little bit of homo-eroticism which amuses me to no end: “You [know] about brotherly love […] you are showing love to all the brothers throughout Macedonia….”
Yes, I can be juvenile sometimes. 🙂
Oh, there’s something else I wanted to mention here. Something serious, actually. Paul is talking about what happens to those who live versus those who die for Christ. Paul states that both groups will be brought together and taken up to be with the Lord. The interesting part is that Paul isn’t speaking in a “this will happen in thousands of years” tone. It sounds very much like Paul believes this will happen soon, before more than a few years or decades have past. He is expecting people who were alive at that point in time to still be alive when Jesus returned.
Chapter 5Paul asks the Thessalonians to continue as they were, but not to get complacent.
ConclusionI don’t know what it is, but I almost have a physical sense for how much things have changed from the gospels to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Part of it is Paul’s echo of Jesus’s teachings, of course. When Jesus taught of the day of the lord coming as a thief in the night, the idea was alive, full of savor, exciting, refreshing. Paul’s recitation feels hollow and clinical. Jesus’s vibrant, loving message is slowly losing its spark in the hands of those who want to mold the message into their own concepts.
Up next: Three chapters? Why bother?
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Monday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.