A Life That Pleases God
1Finally, my dear friends, since you belong to the Lord Jesus, we beg and urge you to live as we taught you. Then you will please God. You are already living that way, but try even harder. 2Remember the instructions we gave you as followers of the Lord Jesus. 3God wants you to be holy, so don't be immoral in matters of sex. 4Respect and honor your wife. 5Don't be a slave of your desires or live like people who don't know God. 6You must not cheat any of the Lord's followers in matters of sex. Remember, we warned you that he punishes everyone who does such things. 7God didn't choose you to be filthy, but to be pure. 8So if you don't obey these rules, you are not really disobeying us. Instead, you are disobeying God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9We don't have to write you about the need to love each other. God has taught you to do this, 10and you already have shown your love for all his people in Macedonia. But, my dear friends, we ask you to do even more. 11Try your best to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard, just as we taught you to do. 12 Then you will be respected by people who are not followers of the Lord, and you won't have to depend on anyone.
Uh uh. We tend to draw back when people start to tell us what to do, especially in the realms of inter-personal conduct and sexual behaviour.
It’s all very well to believe in Jesus and love God, to go to church and say the occasional prayer, but…there’s more? We have to do something – behave in a particular way? Come on, we thought we were doing pretty well – and then Paul wants us to do “more and more”…
But the reading is clear: it is God’s will that we “get sanctified” (v 3).
Holiness is not just a matter of keeping the bodily urges in check – though in a culture like ours which is obsessed with sex and abounding in easily accessible pornography, perhaps this is the area of challenge for most of us.
God wants us to be wholly holy: and that means the discipline of saying No to the sexual possibilities and fantasies that surround us, aligning our hearts, our heads, and our bodies with his good and perfect will, and the constant receiving of the Holy Spirit.
The more affirming second half of today’s reading appeals to us, though it does have a “more and more” of its own. There’s also caring for others, going to work to become independent, minding our own affairs, becoming a blameless example to those around us. But this insistence that we live quietly, get on with our own lives, and love others, reinforces the seemingly impossible tasks of becoming holy, “getting sanctified.” It’s only in walking with Jesus that we are empowered.
In a world of pirates and brigands, of violence and mayhem, the 3rd century St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, discovered a “holy and quiet people,” namely the Christians.
Holy God, there is such a disconnect between who you are and who we are: such a disconnect between your holiness and our shame. Forgive us for our failure to even try to “get sanctified,” and help us. Simply, Holy God, help us.