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Saturday, June 19, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: 1 Thessalonians 4

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we offer things to others with the very best of intentions in mind, yet the things we offer are not received in the way we intended?

I know that has happened to me a number of times over the years. In past jobs, for instance, there were times I jumped right in and did something for a co-worker with the intention of making their job easier. A little while later, however, I sometimes learned that my co-worker was upset because I had stepped on their toes.

Through these experiences I learned to be careful about what I did/said in order to make sure things were received in the spirit I meant them to be.

I wonder if Paul might have had a similar experience in writing today’s chapter from 1 Thessalonians. In the second half of that chapter, for instance, Paul offers words that talk about the afterlife and the “one huge family reunion with the Master” that will take place after our deaths.

I’m sure that Paul intended those words as a way to comfort individuals who had grappled with the loss of a loved one. He hoped those words would carry folks through the tough times and give them a sense that our lives would not end in complete darkness and isolation.

In reading those words, however, some have taken those words literally and turned them into a rigid, doctrinal portrayal of the afterlife. They have told others that you are a Christian if you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection from the dead and the notion that you live on with some connection to the same identity and web of relationships that you live with in this life.

Because of that strict doctrinal interpretation, folks who have taken this approach have taken Paul’s words of comfort and twisted them into words of exclusion and judgment for those who read the words in a more metaphorical way. How sad.

Today, I would invite you to get in touch with your own words and behaviors to see if there are things you are tempted to offer to another with the very best of intentions in mind that might be received in a different spirit.

Til next time…

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