1 Thessalonians 5:16-21Common English Bible (CEB)
16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.
“Rejoice always..Don’t suppress the Spirit.” My ancestors were German and I grew up Lutheran. Stereo typically you wouldn’t know at church if we were rejoicing or morning, Either was an excuse for some hot dish potluck and the tone was frequently somber. I only saw emotion in church when people disagreed, and that was more than uncomfortable. Here’s what I thought back then, and not much has changed, “Church people really need to learn to love each other and respect each other when they disagree.”
We have every reason to celebrate and rejoice, and yet we argue, fuss, complain, and fight.
There is a lot of rejoicing in church. You just wouldn’t know it from the outside. Think of it like this: If the neighbors in the apartment next to you are always arguing, do you really want to get to know them more? Now, if they are celebrating too long and too loud, you might be annoyed, but you might also be tempted to join them if you don’t have to work the next day.
Research indicates that outside the walls of the church, we are known for our disagreements, judgments, and what it’s against, not for our rejoicing, or praying, or thankfulness.
Let’s frame it this way. We call the Gospel, the good news. Is this what we are known for? Or as my reading in Jeremiah put it today, are we known for feeding the orphans and taking care of the widows because God has loved and provided for us?
Seems to me, we have a well-earned image problem. I don’t mean to discount all the good things churches do, and there’s plenty of it. It’s just not what we are known for. I hope over the next 50 years we can change that.
Prayer: Give us perspective. Loved, forgiven, and free, give us hearts that rejoice, souls that pray and care for those around us continually, and give thanks in every situation. Amen.