"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness & honor...; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister... For God did not call us to impurity, but in holiness."
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)
Every book in the Bible has an original context in which it was written. Some specific reason prompted each author to communicate a particular subject to a particular people. Of course, there's still insight & relevance to us today, but it's helpful to know the original context.
The Church in Thessalonica evidently was a "passionate" people, who also had issues with impulse control. The author addresses 3 specific areas when talking about their sanctification (how God wants them to grow into holiness):
- Quit having sex with people you're not married to...
- Keep your own body in check (quit lusting)...
- Don't exploit others anymore...
Now, if you took this list as "the word" for all of us in every situation, you might wonder about other items not listed, that have also traditionally been important to the faithful: unconditional love, forgiveness, issues of justice, caring for the poor & needy, caring for creation, etc. But this wasn't intended to be the "end-all and be-all" of Christian sanctification. It was just what the church in Thessalonica needed to hear at that time.
And yet, I dare say that our society still has these same issues that challenge many of us today. As we hunger for love & affection, sexual intimacy is happening all the time - and not exclusively within the bounds of a committed relationship. Then because we live in a highly sexualized culture, lust is a fierce demon to tame. Finally, the exploitation of men, women & children is almost as rampant now as it's ever been! Human trafficking is widespread. The sex industry makes billions of dollars exploiting people. Child soldiers are having their childhood (& innocence) ripped from them. These truly are ongoing issues of "impurity."
May all of us take a page from the admonition to the community on Thessalonica, and make a step towards a more holy life today. AMEN!