For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 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
As we watch our nation drift so aimlessly, I often think of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”, especially the first lines: “If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming you on it…” This is the problem the apostle Paul takes up in today’s scripture, writing to Thessalonian Christians surrounded by morally confused people who are blaming them.
Paul calls on the Christians to live as “children of light” and to “be sober.” The Greek word translated, “be sober”, means to be free of thinking that would intoxicate and confuse. It is to be clear-headed, self-controlled, rather than acting ‘under the influence’ or the under control of an alluring culture. Paul wants Christians to have “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) The Thessalonian Christians need to keep their heads when others are losing theirs. And so do we!
That tiny band of Christians in Thessalonica were liable to be thrown off balance by the troubles they were facing. They were, after all, an infant church, birthed in suffering, attacked by mobs upon their conversion (See Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). But in spite of the persecution and hardship, Paul urges them to be sober and clear-headed. They must not be thrown off balance, or allow themselves to be intoxicated by fear or hatred. They need, rather, to arm themselves! They need to arm themselves with God’s weapons: “the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
That’s how we can keep our heads when all around us people seem to be losing theirs, and maybe even blaming us! We can arm ourselves with FAITH in God, HOPE for the future, and LOVE, even for those who might be blaming us. That is sober and clear-headed living!
A fellow traveler,