Monday, January 16, 2017

Recipe for the Good Life Part 2

AHHHH, the Good Life! You need it, you want it. You deserve it! Isn’t that what the Madison Avenue marketing executives promote and coerce you into believing? And if you can’t have it, at least you can live vicariously through some celebrity, some beautiful person. How often do you read People Magazine, or watch Entertainment Tonight, hanging on every word, every move, every detail of a celebrity’s life? How often do you try to copy their look, what they wear, what they’re doing, how they’re living, what they’re talking about?
            The definition of the good life has been changing, especially with the Millennial generation. No longer is the single most important goal of home ownership craved by these young adults. Instead, they value immersion travel, seeing the world, not being tied down, and waiting longer to settle down, get married, and have children. (Unfortunately, a huge percentage of them play house by co-habiting together—an arrangement that gets the guy all of the perks of having a wife, and the woman most of the burden and selling of self. More unfortunately, they got that foolish idea of pretending without committing from my generation, which watched the 60’s anti-establishment crowd initiate and flaunt it.) But I digress…
            Last week I presented the overall basics of the good life and what it looks like—growing in love for one another, aspiring to lead a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our own hands, instead of expecting others—and that includes the government—to provide for us.
            This week I’d like to do add to these basics, like a subcategory of specifics. In the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Saint Paul gives an extensive list of what actions will help garner you the Good Life. Before he runs through the list, he tells us in verse 8 to be sober, which simply means to take life seriously enough to not be foolish about it. Sober can be defined as sensible, thoughtful, levelheaded, businesslike, down-to-earth, pragmatic, conservative. That’s a place to start. Being more thoughtful, and less reactive about life and the way we live it.
            And Paul focuses on that with the backdrop of looking ahead to the Lord’s return, which we covered in December for Advent. We continue it here because it’s a permanent backdrop; it’s always relevant to us. One day the Lord will return, and Paul wants us to be ready by living soberly, looking forward to that day, living with it in mind. He also wants us to focus on faith and love under the head knowledge of hope while we’re waiting, living, and expecting. (Ah, does that not remind you of the Love passage in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13; the three things that abide the most?) As The Message puts it:

                       “We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not
                       sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be
                       smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since
                       we’re creatures of the Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight
                       sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.”

            I love that! “Dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.” We should wear it, people should see it on us, hear it in our speech, read it on our faces, know it from our shared opinions and actions. We should stand out in the crowd.

My creative mind wanders to wondering what kind of material that clothing would look like if you could sew up a suit or dress patterned by those virtues. And I don’t mean clothing with the words LOVE, HOPE, PEACE stenciled in four-inch letters on them! It wouldn’t be gray and colorless; I think it would burst with limitless color wheel vibrancy, intensity, and beauty. How could love, faith, and hope be anything but colorful and attractive!? Unfortunately, I think we envision sober as being gloomy and negative rather than positive and often focus on the somber more than the colorful. Maybe it makes us feel more righteous and holy to think that way. Or maybe we just imagine we are. And then we look colorless, boring, and somber to the world.

            As we move over to verse 11 and then into Chapter 12, we find that long list Paul cites. They’re called “exhortations” in my Bible, but I think you could call it a recipe, with crucial ingredients for this Good Life we’re seeking.

            First, he tells us to comfort each other and edify one another. That advice tells me a couple of things:
            1) Life hasn’t changed much. These Thessalonians were suffering then just like we suffer now—antagonism directed at us because of our faith, relationship heartbreaks, job losses, ill health, death.
            2) We need to spend less time focused on ourselves and more time easing others’ stress and grief, and teaching them the faith, the positive ways of life. This is a time when it’s okay to mind someone else’s business, as long as they’ve given you permission to do so.

            Then comes the list:

1. Recognize and esteem very highly in love the ones who are in spiritual authority over us.
2. Be at peace among ourselves.
3. Give warnings to those who are unruly in their behavior.
4. Comfort the fainthearted.
5. Uphold the weak.
6. Be patient with all. (And he does mean all!)
7. Make sure no one pays back evil for evil to anyone.
8. Instead, always pursue what is good, both for yourselves and for all. (And he does mean always.)
9.  Always be rejoicing.
10. Give thanks in everything, (and he does mean everything), because that’s God’s will.
11. Do not quench the [Holy] Spirit.
12. Do not despise prophecies.
13. Test all things.
14. Hang on tightly to what is good.
15. Stay away from every form of evil.

            It’s a long list. On the surface, it’s looks pretty straightforward. And some of it looks easy. A lot of it isn’t. How do we rightly divide all of it and live it out, successfully?
            That’s what we’ll start looking at next week, when we dig a little deeper and unearth the “how to’s” of living this Good Life. Next week we’ll cover the first seven, and then we’ll wrap up the rest the following Monday. For now, look the list over carefully and make mental or journal notes about how you’re doing, or think you are. Make notes about which ones you struggle with, which ones make you wrinkle your nose. The ones that confuse you. And join me back here next week!

            When we’ll get more serious about living the Good Life!



May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Images by Google