And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. Lev. 26:6
After weeks of difficult passages from the Old Testament, the Daily Lectionary gives us a break by reminding us of God’s vision of Shalom. Peace, within the parameters of scripture, excludes fear. What causes one fear? The threat of violence? The surprise attack from an animal (or more likely where I live, being bitten by a slithering snake)? The list of things that cause one to live in fear is long. In effect, a God secured peace banishes all fearful things.
Fear has a powerful effect upon us. Wars, nightmares, and distrust of creation emanate from it. Politicians, from any side of the aisle, promise to thwart fear through securing their people economically or militarily. In doing so, they only reproduce more fear, fear of being attacked, or tax policies that reproduce classism. Fear begets fear.
God offers a peace that excludes the means of fear, and by doing so excludes fear itself. Whether Israel ever lived into the promise of peace as portrayed here no one knows. What’s known is that the promise of peace, this kind of peace, continues on. Through Jesus, we have peace with God and one another, now. We have the promise of peace, too, where every tear will be wiped away, and. as one song says, we will learn war no more. Come Lord Jesus! Come!
1 Thessalonians 4:1–8
For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. I Thess. 4:7
Paul reminds us today of God’s emphasis upon holiness. Holiness, for some, was a term to describe a way of life determined by “don’ts.” Don’t go to the movies. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t smoke. Don’t drive two-tone vehicles. Don’t shop on Sundays. Don’t smile either. Okay, that last one was made up. But you get the point. Holiness got a bad rap. So many rules, so little grace.
Reclaiming holiness, however, is imperative. It’s imperative because it describes our growth in love for God, one another, and ourselves. Holiness reverberates from a life dedicated to loving God and one another. It is not the enemy of such love, when holiness stands in the way of love, it is no longer holiness that’s pursued, but legalism.
Paul connects sanctification to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, empowering us to live into the kind of love shown to us in Jesus Christ. Paul uses fornification, driven by lustful passion, because it’s a practice linked to temple prostitution. Literally, it is a practice of worshiping another god by use of the body. How much time and money is spent on the worship of lust today? When quarantine began, pornography viewership soared. Our creaturely existence has not changed much since Paul’s time. Lust is a powerful god too. Millions of women and children have been abducted and sold into modern slavery at the service of lust. Paul warns us of fornification because he’s knows how powerful a force it can be.
How we live, what we do, what we think, and what we attach our emotions to, matters to God. The true worship of God leads one into a life different from the rest of the world. It doesn’t participate in dominant practices of society, like lust and pornography. Such a life is set aside to God, sanctified, and driven by the Spirit. It is a life of love.