1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
I can’t read this passage in Japanese without singing it, because it has been set to music exactly from the translation I use, and it’s a very catchy tune. This whole section, from verse 12 on, has a lot of direct statements that are quoted fairly often, but taken as a whole they can be pretty overwhelming. I mean, who does everything right? That’s why Paul wraps it up with these two verses. Verse 23 makes it clear that he is indeed talking about perfection, when perfection is impossible for human beings, but then he flips it around and says that even though it’s impossible for us, God will take care of it. The Japanese here uses a term that basically means “positively,” saying, “He will positively do this.” The composer of the musical arrangement made only one adjustment to the text, and that was to repeat the word, “positively,” singing it a total of three times for emphasis, and then repeating the whole phrase for a total of six times. We need that assurance! If we think we can make it on our own, that is hubris. That’s a term the Greeks came up with to mean “stupid pride that denies God.” If we just look at ourselves, our resources and our abilities, we’re strongly tempted to give up before we start. It is only when we rely on the only One who is perfect that we can have peace with the call to be perfect ourselves. Paul is reminding us that we are called by a perfect God, and He can be relied on to accomplish in and through us anything He calls on us to do.
Of course, this applies to me as much as it does to anyone. Hubris was the name of my game for part of my life, and when God popped that bubble, in all kindness and mercy, it was devastating. Just as I struggle with my own lack of perfection, I have to deal constantly with the lack of perfection in others. That’s actually my job, as a pastor. I am constantly to point people to Jesus, because as the song from 50 years ago says, Jesus is the answer. That applies to everything. (And no, the answer isn’t 42, though I do enjoy Douglas Adams’ books.) I am sharply aware of God’s grace toward me, and I need to be an instrument of that grace toward everyone around me. None of us deserve to have it easy, but God loves us anyway. I need to keep my focus on my Lord so consistently that everyone who looks at me may be drawn to Him as well.
Father, I’ve again stated something that is impossible in my own strength and purity. Thank You for the further reminder that I’m totally dependent on You, and that’s a good thing. I ask You to keep working in and through me, just as Paul talks about here, so that You may be glorified by all that I am, say and do. Thank You. Praise God!