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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 thermometer?” That is the question I liked to ask girls and boys in a children’s sermon, and a question I am asking myself today. Amidst the rising anger and despair in our nation, am I a thermostat or thermometer?

A thermometer simply tells you the temperature, while the thermostat sets and improves it. So, I am asking myself if my attitudes and actions simply reflect the temperature of our nation, with its rage and nihilism, or, am I doing something to improve it?

This question stirs in me as I read today’s scripture in which God commands us through the apostle Paul to conduct ourselves as “children of light…not of the night or of darkness.” We are to think and act differently than the darkness surrounding us. Paul directs these words to Christians in small house churches of Thessalonica, formed amidst persecution, attacked by enraged mobs (Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

Paul then follows the call for us to live as “children of light” with “let us be sober.” The words “be sober” translate the Greek nepho that speaks of a life free from mental or spiritual intoxication that would confuse or disorient us. It is to be possessed by “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). We don’t want to twist and turn like weather vanes merely showing the direction the culture is blowing today.

But how do we live as children of light in the darkness? How do we keep from being intoxicated by the rage and hopeless of the day? Paul tells how: “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” We ought not to be surprised at Paul’s repeated triad of godly living: “faith…love…hope” as they define living as children of the light:

• “The one who is righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

• “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

• “Rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12).

• “And now faith, hope, and love abide” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

It is a big challenge before us to live as thermostats and children of light, but the Spirit of God lives within us! By the power of the Holy Spirit we will live by FAITH in the promises of God; speak the truth of God in LOVE; and rejoice in the glorious HOPE that God gives us for the future. We will live as God’s children of light!

A fellow traveler,

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