Don’t “mistreat or take advantage of”

Posted May 14, 2021

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Daily Scripture

1 Thessalonians 4:5-8

5 Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God. 6 No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue. The Lord punishes people for all these things, as we told you before and sternly warned you. 7 God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him [Or holy, sanctified]. 8 Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Reflection Questions

In verse 5, the apostle Paul dealt with sexual urges in a way similar to his (and Jesus') teaching about money: do not make it your god by letting it control you. Verse 6 dealt with another real issue in his day that has resurfaced strongly in ours: the idea that sexual acts apart from committed love are “victimless.” No—to sexually mistreat or take advantage of anyone is to ignore God, who values and respects all God’s children.

  • Later, to Christians in Corinth (a city even Romans mocked for its immorality), Paul wrote that your body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.” As he did the Thessalonians, he urged them forcefully, “Avoid sexual immorality!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Have you ever thought or said, “It’s my body—I can do what I want with it”? How did Paul’s teaching that “God didn’t call us to be immoral” challenge that way of thinking?
  • In all this, we must never lose sight of the power of God’s grace as showed in Jesus. Pastor Ortberg wrote, “Sexual sin all too often has become the primary litmus test for separating the sheep from the goats…. How different are the teachings of Jesus. Over and over it is the most scandalized sinners—including sexual sinners—who are drawn to him.”* No matter your history, how does God’s grace invite you to “be dedicated to God,” letting God control your life?

Prayer

King Jesus, make all of me—body, mind and heart—a temple where your Spirit dwells. Remodel me from the inside out in your beautiful holy image. Amen.


* Ortberg, John. Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

In today’s passage, Paul warns his readers (& us) of the danger of giving in to sexual temptation. He wisely focuses on sexual urges, because sexual temptation is a universal/timeless struggle. One glance at any advertisement in the past 50 years of beautiful/attractive men & women selling everything from cars, to perfume, to cell-phones proves Paul’s point.

Surveys have shown that while sexual temptation remains a significant problem, other temptations that can interfere with a successful faithwalk are starting to be added to the list. Let’s take a look:

62% struggle with the temptation of anxiety or worry. (This survey was done pre-COVID, so I imagine that percentage would be even higher today.) We aren’t talking about anxiety or depression that require medical treatment, but just those everyday worries & concerns that can interfere with our communing with God. We are all too familiar with the drill: You are departing at the crack-of-dawn on a 10-hour drive to Estes Park, Colorado. After driving 60-minutes, your wife suddenly stirs & says, “I can’t remember if I turned off the iron.” You gamely try to reassure her, to no avail. Until the “Mystery of the Iron” is resolved, your trip of rest & relaxation is jeopardized. (One friend shared that his folks solved this vexing problem by traveling with the iron on the front seat floorboard for every family car trip.) This temptation to let worries/anxieties race through our mind makes it very challenging to embrace God’s hope that we “rejoice in the day the Lord has made.”

62% of us are tempted with procrastination. This tendency could mean we delay starting that Bible study, or hesitate asking for grace from a friend we’ve wronged, or pretending we’ll “have more time next summer” to volunteer for VBC. Perhaps we are like a young friend who noted that he was all set to start writing a major paper & soon found himself distracted with a 12-minute “How to Play the Harmonica” tutorial. What made it worse is that he didn’t even own a harmonica. (Amazon has an interesting book: The Psychology of Procrastination: Understand your Habits, Find Motivation & Get Things Done. Did it help? – Editor. Um, I can’t say. It’s in my cart, “saved for later” DL.) It’s odd, but we have no problem with “Buy it Now” purchases on eBay for items that are pleasing to us, yet somehow we hem & haw over commitments/choices that would be pleasing to God.

52% reported that they are tempted with the overuse of electronics. A glance around restaurants, seminars, & cars stopped at stoplights suggests that this percentage is way too low. For example, when we are asked to take out our phones to register our attendance each Sunday, how many of us are tempted to “just do a quick check” of our inbox or texts? In my defense, sometimes I am just curious to know if that incident at mile-marker 194 on the Kansas Turnpike has been cleared yet. (Yes! “Traffic is flowing normally.” Super-duper! Fist-Pump.) It’s awfully hard to minister to one another as God hopes if our faces are always looking downward.

Interestingly, 75% of respondents are tempted to lean on surveys to prove the validity of their viewpoints. (Physician, heal thyself - Editor. Yes, I am well aware of the irony that I’m using survey results to prove my point that we can rely on surveys too much. That’s also why I chew Trident gum, because 4/5 dentists can’t be wrong – DL.) However, striving to be popular or “following the crowd” wasn’t a wise strategy in high school & it still isn’t a component of a successful spiritual journey today. One can’t always please God AND humankind. (Ironically, 74% don’t trust survey results – saying their conclusions are often faulty due to leading questions or skewed demographics of those surveyed. So while one group thinks a survey will clinch the debate in their favor, the other group thinks the exact same survey results prove their position. Sometimes, my fellow Americans just make me smile.)

So, what does Paul’s admonition mean for us 2,000 years later? First, we need to recognize what is our particular temptation. Second, we should to limit our exposure to that temptation &, if needed, seek the assistance & accountability of a friend in Christ. And third, we need to prayerfully ask for God’s help to lead us & guide us, so that we can commune with Him with an undistracted mind, a heart driven to please Him, & hands eager to serve His Kingdom.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to finally buy that book on procrastination. [Click.] Book Suggested for You – “How to Play the Accordion in 30 Days.” Huh. That looks interesting. I’ll just take a quick look at that book first.

*Barna.com/research/new-research-explores-the-changing-shape-of-temptation/

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