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1 Thessalonians 4:7–8 and Rejecting God

6 years ago written by

There are plenty of disagreements within the church over issues such as human sexuality. My former communion of the United Methodist Church has had its fair share of debates around the topic. (Full disclosure: That is part of the reason I am Free Methodist today.)

The position many want to have that particular denomination come to is that (and this is a paraphrase) the people of God are divided on their opinion on the issue of homosexuality. For anyone looking for a good read on the issue, I would recommend Bill Arnold’s book “Seeing Black and White in a Gray World.” For my biblical take on the issue, these couple of verses from Paul are a good starting point for me:

“God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him. Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:7–8 CEB).

The first point to make with regard to these two verses is that this is a letter written by a Christian (Paul) to Christians (the church in Thessalonica) about Christians (its members). This is not a diatribe about people outside of the church. Paul makes it abundantly clear elsewhere in his corpus that Christians are not to judge non-Christians.

Second, Paul has this as a summary statement of how to live a life “dedicated to” God; in other words, a holy life. The primary issue is to “stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body” (4:3–4 CEB). This covers any kind of immorality, be it homosexual or heterosexual immorality. Contrary to much debate, and very well explained by Arnold in his book, the scriptural texts concerning what constitutes sexual immorality are not ambiguous at all. Homosexuality in all its forms is included within this category.

For people in the church who do not want to accept that fact and seek to interpret passages in an ambiguous light, forcing the text to say something it does not say, as Paul says, they are not rejecting human authority. This is not a question of appropriate interpretation of texts. The Bible is actually quite clear on what it says.

I do not believe that anyone in the LGBTQIA community is a worse human being than I am. I have to be clear on this issue. Paul’s verses here strike right to the heart of my life as well, because I struggle with different sins. I am not holy, nor am I a perfect Christian. There are many times I reject God “who gives his Holy Spirit” in my own life. A post like this could easily be written concerning alcoholism, pornography, overeating, sugar addiction, greed, selfishness or any number of other sinful attitudes that plague us all.

Why choose to lift up one particular sin then? Because this is a sin that is making headlines in which portions of the church are trying to redefine its status as sin.

Steven Bruns, Ph.D., is the pastor of the Newton (Illinois) Free Methodist Church and the author of “Subtle Lies: How A Bad Understanding of Pride, Humility, and Love Can Undermine Your Life in Christ.” This article originally appeared on his Free Methodist Preacher blog (freemethodistpreacher.com).

DISCUSS IT

  1. In a culture with sexual images frequently visible on billboards, television commercials, social media and magazine covers in the checkout line, how can we “stay away from sexual immorality”?
  2. Have you heard other Christians suggest that sex outside of heterosexual marriage isn’t sinful? If so, what is your response?
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