When Chasity is Absent September 8, 2019

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Rev. Donald W. Hackett, D.Min.         

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children

What is the difference between a person and a thing? (show baseball card)

    • Things are made by people.
    • People are made by God.
    • Things have limited value.
    • People are deeply valuable and should be honored and respected.

What happens when people are treated like things?

  • People may treat them poorly and hurt them.
  • God is sad because we are all made to be respected and honored.

Let’s pray:  Thank you, God, that you made us and celebrate us.  Help us to treat with kindness each person we meet. In Christ we pray.  Amen. 

Introduction

Last week we defined chastity as the practice of giving boundaries and focus to our relational energy as a way of honoring God.  We discovered as we see and treat others as respected brothers and sister, we are able to put our own agendas aside to serve each other.  

This week we are going to talk about when chastity is absent.  What happens when we lack purity in conduct and intention toward others?  Finding appropriate ways to relate to each other is not a new problem. In our passage today there is an invitation to live in the way of Jesus.  This lifestyle is different from the way many people are living in the world around us.  

Join me in reading the scripture in your bulletin.

Scripture                    1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 The Voice 

So finally, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus, we ask you, we beg you to remember what we have taught you: live a life that is pleasing to God as you are already doing. 

Yes, we urge you to keep living and thriving in that life! For you know the instructions we gave you, instructions that came through the Lord Jesus. Now this is God’s will for you: set yourselves apart and live holy lives; avoid polluting yourselves with sexual defilement. Learn how to take charge over your own body, maintaining purity and honor. 

Don’t let the swells of lustful passion run your life as they do the outsiders who don’t know God. Don’t violate or take advantage of a fellow believer in such matters. 

As we told you before and warned you: the Lord will settle the score with anyone who does these things. Here’s why: God does not call us to live impure, adulterous, scandalous lives, but to seek holiness and purity. 

If you ignore this message, then you’re not only rejecting us but you’re rejecting God, the One who has given His Holy Spirit to live in you.

Background

Paul is writing this young church to help them enter in the good life God has for them.  When we say “good life” we can easily think that this means an easy life of having lots of whatever I want.  The good life we know from our experience in Christ more than that.  The really good life is made of healthy relationships with God and each other. Sooner or later, we learn that the most important thing in life is our relationships. Paul is laying out some practical advice on how to leave the old life and enter the new of being with each other in Christ.

Focus

There is one phrase I want to focus on in this passage.  I think it sums up what we need to consider and practice.  The phrase is: 

“Don’t violate or take advantage of a fellow believer.”  

The context in this passage is intimate personal relationships.  People were using other people at church for their own needs. In a place where people thought they were safe, the church, harm was occurring. Some believers in the community were not changing from their old ways.  The behavior that was normal in the world was still with them. They needed new eyes for themselves and the people around them in order to change their ways.

The Way We See Others

As I thought about the transformation that needs to occur in us to become more like Christ, I realized one of the key practices is in the way we see.  In Christ we see ourselves and each other in a brand new way. The world we live in likes to see people, not as people, but objects. 

For example, I was watching a college football game on tv and the announcer referred to the players as pieces of the strategy. Players (people) had become pieces (things). If a piece is ineffective or gets broken, you just get a new one.  Right? 

We feel bad if someone get hurt, but we get over it and back to our entertainment. 

This mentality is seen in the big picture where college football has become a major source of income for schools, often functioning independently. The players, the students, do not even have the rights of employees.   Students are made into assets to be used or put aside. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/billion-dollar-ball-college-football-business/406249/

Objectification

The tendency to make a person or group of people less than human and not worthy of honor or respect is call “objectification.”  Objectification is when we treat each other like objects and not as people.  The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as, “treating people like tools or toys, as if they had no feelings, opinions, or rights of their own…” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/objectification

One way to understand objectification is to see it operate at a global scale. Slavery has exist for centuries and still thrives today.  According the website of End Slavery Now:

There are an estimated 21 million to 45 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking.” At all times it is slavery at its core… 

It takes on many forms today. 

    • Domestic Servitude – Employees working in private homes are forced or coerced into serving and/or fraudulently convinced that they have no option to leave.
    • Sex Trafficking – Women, men or children that are forced into the commercial sex industry and held against their will by force, fraud or coercion.
    • Forced Labor – Human beings are forced to work under the threat of violence and for no pay. These slaves are treated as property and exploited to create a product for commercial sale.
    • Bonded Labor – Individuals that are compelled to work in order to repay a debt and unable to leave until the debt is repaid. It is the most common form of enslavement in the world.
    • Child Labor – Any enslavement — whether forced labor, domestic servitude, bonded labor or sex trafficking — of a child.
    • http://www.endslaverynow.org/learn/slavery-today

Here are a few examples I found:

  • The new ultramodern city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is known for her sleek tall buildings, the world largest mall, and plush hotels in the desert.  It is reported that:  “Nearly 90% of Dubai’s 3.1 million residents are expats, many of whom are migrant workers brought in to work on construction projects or in service jobs. Most come alone on the promise of much higher salaries than in their home countries, so they can send money back to their families. But Dubai and the UAE have long been the subject of complaints of mistreatment of workers. Migrant workers say they often face brutal work conditions, shifts of 12 hours or more, and that companies withhold paychecks or workers’ passports so as not to let them quit or return home.”
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/dubai-development-tourism-workers-problem-2018-12  
  • This amazing city has come at great human cost.  

People had to become objects to build and maintain Dubai.

Insight:  As I thought about this issue, it occurred to me the all the great civilizations of world were built on the backs of people treated like objects.

The pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China, and slavery in the South, and the transcontinental railroad in the United States all depended on cheap labor. It seems the world feels it can only prosper when people are treated like objects.  The new world order that Jesus Christ is growing depends on people being treated like children of God. The world treats people as objects.  Jesus invites us to see all people as valued brothers and sisters. 

Helpful Ways Forward

When we allow ourselves to see people as objects to be used or ignored, we are headed for trouble.  The spiritual practice of chastity calls to act with pure motives. We see each other as people made by God, deserving respect and honor.  

We refrain from treating people as less than us or to be used by us.

One way forward is to look for examples when people are made into objects.  When you listen to the news, remember that…

  • The abuse of children can only come when they are thought to be less than others. 
  • The harassing of people who serve us in stores, restaurants, and workplaces can only occur if we consider them less that us. 
  • Pornography can only flourish when women and men are reduced to objects for consumption. 

Notice this practice in our culture and ask God to show you when you are tempted to think of people as just a means to an end.

Another way forward is to make friends with those we do not know.  Rohit and Chandra are friends of mine who live in Lancaster.  They used to live in the country Bhutan. Bhutan is nestled on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas between China and India and not too far from Nepal.  It is a Buddhist country which in the 1990’s began to expel all non-Buddhist people from her borders.  Over 100,000 had to leave with no country to receive them.  They became refugees, people looking for a safe and productive community in which to live. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutan

Neighboring Nepal set up refugee camps fo these people to live, but did not welcome them back even though ethnically they were from the same Hindu Nepali background.  Rohit and Chandra waited in these refugee camps that looked like prisons for decades.  Finally countries like Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States started carefully processing and receiving these families that were trapped with no country of their own.  Rohit and Chandra now are US citizens, their son is a student at a local college and their daughter just started first grade. Because our country chose to see them as people, deserving of dignity and opportunity, they are thriving here in their country of the United States. 

I encourage to consider being a host for a refugee family.  They are coming from places all over the world where they needed to run for their very lives.  Footsteps is the Church World Service-Lancaster podcast that tells the stories of refugees from around the world who have settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Each episode offers an intimate look into the unique journey of refugees that are rebuilding their shattered lives in this Central Pennsylvania community. https://cwslancaster.org/footsteps-podcast/

A third way forward is to speak up and act on the behalf of those without a voice or a vote.  I noticed a flyer posted on the glass at the Shrewsberry True Value Store.  It was titled, “SEX TRAFFICKING is here, in York County. We can fight it, but first we have to recognize it.”  It goes on to announce that there will be a guest speaker addressing this issue at the New Freedom Community Center on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 6pm.  Maybe our next step in chastity is protecting those who cannot protect themselves.  

Let us pray:  Thank you, Lord, for all you have given us.  We are so blessed.  Help us now with pure motives and strategic actions help others who need us. In Christ, Amen.