Upsidedown Living: Love (1 Thess 4:9-12)

Hugs are important. In fact, Jeff Ondash believes hugs are so vital that he decided to hug 7,777 people! The 51-year old Ohio native broke a Guinness World Record for most hugs in a 24-hour period, whereas the previous record was only 5,000. Also worthy of note, Jeff holds the world record for most hugs in an hour – 1,205. Ondash said he was tired from being on his feet and not eating all day but that he embraced all kinds of people.[1]

As you consider Jeff Ondash’s hug record, when is the last time you displayed affection or love to someone? [2]  Sometimes we can go days or even weeks without telling others how important they are to us.  And unfortunately, Christians can be some of the most uncaring and unfriendly people to be around. Not the Thessalonian believers. They had a reputation of being huggable (even kissable – 1 Thess. 5:26). They loved others both inside and outside the church. This love went beyond hugs and kisses, extending to genuine brotherly affection that continuously increased (2 Thess 1:3). Christians ought to be the most loveable people in the world. Are you? Is our church?

 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Paul continues his instructions (authoritative military orders) from 4:1. His basic point is that Jesus’ lordship is over every area of the Christian’s life; in sexual purity, socially and even in the way we view death. Paul urges the following actions:

 Love Increasingly (4:10).

The Thessalonian believers were to grow in their love for each other. Love is a character quality of God and it should be a reflection of our character as well. The point to be made is that love is not simply an emotion but an identity and action. God’s love compels us to live as Jesus did.

 1John 3:16-18, 4:19-21 “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; … We love because He first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from Him: the one who loves God must also love his brother.

 —– Testimonies from Loving Severna Park on 3/20 —–

Live quietly & Labor Faithfully (4:11-12)

Paul tells the Thessalonians to lead a quiet life and to mind their own business. His intention is for them to help not hinder the social culture (work, economy, citizenship). Make no mistake, Paul was not telling believers to compromise the gospel, or live so quietly that the gospel is silenced. His point is quite the opposite. When Christians live quietly to contribute toward the good of the community they earn credibility and respect of outsiders. This creates an environment in which they have greater opportunity to share the gospel message.

 There is much debate about Christians and culture today. How are Christians to approach and engage the world around them? There are 4 common approaches:[3]

 1)      Accommodate the culture. The church simply mirrors or reflects worldly styles and trends. In this case it becomes difficult to discern the difference between Christians and unbelievers. By default, the love of the world becomes god. The obvious problem with this view is producing god-substitutes rather than a clear difference and reason to become transformed by God’s grace and have devotion to Him alone.

2)      Avoid the culture. Some Christians avoid the culture by creating sub cultures. It’s the mindset that church culture is a bomb shelter; huddle up and hide. Christians become innocent but extremely naïve. The problem with this view is that evil not only exists outside of ourselves but inside our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” If all Christians left public school system or sports leagues, stores, or any other public arena, then how will they be a witness for Christ to the world? Jesus said his prayer was not to take us out of the world but have protection from the evil one (John 17:15).

3)      Attack the culture. Christians violently attack the culture for everything wrong that exists. They may be right in doing so but their methods are by far from honoring God or loving toward people. An example is when “christians” bomb abortion clinics, or verbally degrade the President yet never pray for him.[4] The church becomes known for what it is against and never what it is for or in support. The problem with this view is that it is arrogant and prideful. It forgets the reality that we are all saved by the mercy and grace of God. And it fails to offer the intended purpose of the gospel to transform others.

4)      Affect the culture. Christians seek to influence the culture with the gospel. They understand they are not perfect models but they point to the One that is, Jesus Christ. They have accepted the call to be on mission with God to redeem a lost and dark world without hope if they do not receive the gospel. The church becomes very public and culture shapers while remaining counter cultural. Christians are sent as missionaries just as Jesus was sent into the world (John 17:18).

TAKING IT HOME

*How can Christians express love publicly without being viewed as insincere?

*Which is your approach to culture and the world?

–      Does your life look like sin and the world?

–      Are you apathetic in your witness, failing to take advantage of opportunities to share the gospel?

–      Are you prideful, standing in judgment of others, forgetting that your sin is just as bad as another?

 –      Are you where you want to be in your relationship to the outside world? I’m not sure any of us can give a fully affirmative response to this. We all have room to repent and grow. Pray that God will give you and our church a greater urgency to love Him and love others.


[1] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35391983/

[2] Dick McGunigale at SPBC gives the most hugs of any man I’ve met.

[3] Points adapted from Mark Driscoll’s sermon at Convergent Conference 2007 found at http://apps.sebts.edu/chapel/pdf/logBook.pdf

[4] This interesting article found at http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/03/22/dont-be-afraid/ shares the intention behind leading quiet lives and winning respect of outsiders in regards to recent political events. In fact, it goes deeper to evaluate the priorities and outlook of life in view of eternity.

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