For you are all children of light and children of the day;
we are not of the night or of darkness…But since we belong to the day,
let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith
and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:5, 8
“Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?” That is a question I gleaned many years ago from a favorite book of children’s sermons. It is a question that comes to me now in this time of pandemic, civil unrest, hostility, and uncertainty about the future.
A thermometer simply reflects the temperature around us, reacting to what is happening. If the room temperature is too cold, the thermometer tells you that; and if too hot, it lets you know. A thermometer is always influenced by its surrounding environment.
A thermostat, on the other hand, regulates the temperature. If the room gets too cold, the thermostat goes into action and warms it up. Should the room get too hot, the thermostat cools it down. Rather than merely reflecting what goes on around it, the thermostat works to change it.
The events and mood of our nation today bring me back to that children’s sermon: am I a thermostat or thermometer? Am I reactive, simply reflecting the incivility, uncertainty, and despair? Or am I seeking to be God’s salt and light in His world? Am I hearing God’s call to be “holy”, to dare live differently from those who do not yet know Christ?
The apostle Paul speaks to me in today’s scripture as he calls Thessalonian Christians to live as “children of light” in a dark world. Paul reminds them of their responsibility not to reflect the nihilism, hedonism, and hopelessness poisoning their city. He does not want that little outpost of Christian faith to be disoriented by the trouble. After all, their little house church was born in persecution and suffering, and they should be ready for the same. They should remember that their first members were attacked by mobs, forcing Paul to flee in the night. (Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Thus, Paul admonishes, “let us be sober”. The Greek word nepho, translated “sober”, speaks to a life free from mental and spiritual intoxication that would disorient or cloud anyone’s thinking. For them to be “sober” will mean “a calm, steady, state of mind that evaluates things correctly, so that it is not thrown off balance…Such ‘level-headedness’ is a constant Christian need.” (D. Edmond Hiebert, Commentary on First Peter).
By being sober about the world Christians are ready to put on God’s weaponry for battle: “the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” How like Paul to always turn to his favorite triad of virtue: faith, hope, and love! And of course, the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Reading today’s troubling news, I pray to be God’s thermostat! I ask Him to fill us with strong faith in our God; hope for God’s great future for us; and love, even for our enemies!
A fellow traveler,