Saturday, April 9, 2016

1 Thessalonians 4:6a

"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Welcome to my obsession for the past week. This is the entire section I finally was able to dig into, but when these verses were brought up recently my blood pressure went up and I wanted to argue, but I stayed quiet. You see, I wasn't SURE, but it turns out I was right.

Verse 6a says "and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister." When it was discussed the topic of women's modesty was the subject. I was upset because that always seems like the easy out for people. When I first read the section that morning that was not my perspective, at all. It was the gentleman's who was teaching, and it wasn't my class, and I wasn't sure, so I stayed quiet.

It has sat with me since then.

So, digging into it, different commentaries think this section can be taken two ways:
(1) "That no man should by any means endeavor to corrupt the wife of another."
(2) And there are references to it being about finances and defrauding others.

In no commentary did I find that these verses mean women should be modest and not cause a man to lust. So, when someone reads that INTO these verses, I don't fully understand. Because I didn't say anything that morning I don't know how the gentleman came to that understanding, but let me share my understanding.

First, let me say that lust is a second thought. You can see someone beautiful, scantily dressed, or even acting in a seductive manner and it is only your responsibility not to lust. I liken it to your relative. If your sister was in a bathing suit at the beach, would you lust after her? No, because that is a line we don't cross. What if that was a line we didn't cross with anyone. And let me be very clear here! Women lust as easily as men do, make no mistake about that. But it is still a choice we make AFTER we have seen someone. Not because we saw them.

Second, let me say what I think lust does to the person we're lusting after: it turns them into an object. They are no longer a human, a child of God, or a person with a soul. Instead they are something for our entertainment, satisfaction, and pleasure. We fully objectify a person when we lust after them. Plain and simple.

Now, let's go back to the verse section: "in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister." When we lust after a person we sin against them because we are removing their humanity and ignoring the fact that they are made in the likeness of God. We wrong them because they deserve so much more than being turned into an object. We take advantage of them because we are getting something from them without giving anything in return.

I can see how some would say, "We only take advantage of others in a financial sense." But the truth is we can take advantage of people in a whole slew of ways, but we shouldn't do it at all.

Abstain from sexual immorality. Stay pure and live a holy life.

It's about action and thought. It's both. Women and men deal with these issues. Women and men can be taken advantage of. Whether you "corrupt the wife of another" (Adam Clarke Commentary) or realize "all sexual dishonesty and indulgence is a fraud perpetuated against another" (Coffman's Commentary) it is clear that "Sexual also a sin against other persons." (Believer's Bible Commentary) 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus told us long before Paul ever did. We as Christians need to see people as children of God. We need to see hearts and souls and minds and bodies. They are whole beings. We are whole beings. Choose better, friends. All of us need to remember that we are called to a holy life. 

And if you think you can think these things without consequences, if you think it is a victim-less crime, then remember what else Paul said; "the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you."

Should we watch what we wear? I think we should watch our motive when we dress, and we are responsible for that. But these verses are saying we need to watch our hearts when we look at others. "No one should transgress and wrong their brother in sister in these matters."

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