Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday in Advent 1

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

V. 9 Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been [God-taught] to love one another.

I changed “taught by God” to “God-taught” in order to point out that Paul uses a very odd word here. In fact, most scholars believe3 he invented the word. In Greek the word is theodidaktoi, a compound word combining the Greek words for “God” and “to teach.” What did he mean by this?

It makes me think of a prophecy of Jeremiah, in chapter 34: “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord.” This comes after God declares that he is about to make a new covenant with Israel, a covenant that writes the law on their hearts. It also makes me think of what Jesus says about the Spirit in John’s Gospel, chapter 16: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” He says this after he declares that there are many things he cannot reveal to them yet.

All of us need to be taught, and not just when we are young. The process of learning from another, whether formally or informally, is essential to our continued growth as human beings, much less as Christians. But Jesus, in a sense, declared us all teachers, since each one of us has an equal share of the Spirit. Not all can give “head” knowledge, but all can teach in the spirit, out of our own relationship with and experience of God.

The Thessalonians have apparently asked a question about loving one another. We have no way of knowing what that question was. The answer, Paul says, is within and among you; you can know it, indeed you already know it, as you exercise the gift of God’s love. He does go on to give some advice, but he has first placed the authority for answering the question in the Thessalonian community.

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