This morning, we are going to have some fun... No, not preacher fun. We are going to have some psychologist fun. I suspect, they have more fun than preachers.
What I want to start with is a little bit hard to get your head around. It took me a while to understand what I am going to attempt to explain. I’m not sure I entirely get just yet. Zee, first shared this concept with me several years ago. If you have questions, ask her.
Here is the premise... Everyone works out of a fundamental metaphor. I am not talking about English metaphors, but psychological metaphors. Everyone of us operates, functions, behaves out of a view of how they are in the world. We each have, what I am going to call, a life-metaphor.
It is explained like this... “Metaphor is an organizing principle for human action. Metaphors are off-the-shelf narratives that facilitate the formation and maintenance of personal identity.” Does that help?
A couple of examples...
According to Forrest Gump's mother... life is... "a box of chocolates" because "you never know what you're going to get"? If your life is a box of chocolates, you live from one event to another some good, some bad. The box is a container that you live within everything is a mystery. There is no control. Life becomes a chance kind of thing.
Or, you could have the opposite metaphor... "Life is just a bowl of cherries". If you your life-metaphor is a bowl of cherries, everything is open in the bowl. You can see all the cherries and pick the cherry you want. You are in control. You expect one good thing after another.
Some view the world from inside -no control. Others view the world from outside- optimistically.
Another common life-metaphor is a journey. Your life is moving. You are traveling along the highway of life. You might feel in control. You choose where you are going. You are looking for the next destination in your life. You may say things like... “That’s all behind me now.” “I have moved on from that.” Life is a journey from the cradle to the grave.
One of the saddest ways to view life is as a victim. Those whose life-metaphor is victim, the next bad thing to happen; wait for the next person to take advantage of them; the next shoe to fall. Life is just waiting to get out of it.
Others talk about stages in their life. Stages, as in Shakespeare’s, "All of life is a stage...” The stage metaphor person thinks about how they are going to act on the stage... before moving to another stage. Life unfolds before them as they are on the next stage. Life is a performance through the stages. No control... the script is there for you to read... just acting out your part.
There are lots of others such life-metaphors... prison, story, climb, roller-coaster...
“This is all fun, Tim. But what does it have to do with Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians?” I’m glad you ask. I’m glad you remember we are in 1 Thessalonians. Here is where we mix psychologist fun with preacher fun, to double the fun.
We are going to read 1 Thessalonians 3 and then psychoanalyze Paul. We are going to take a shot at figuring out Paul’s life-metaphor from what he wrote to the Thessalonians... double the fun.
Let’ review where we are in 1 Thessalonians so far... watching for clues as to how Paul uses metaphors. So far...
1) The Christian life is composed of three essential elements... faith, love and hope. These three spiritual components are what our lives are based upon. Metaphorically, you are chemistry experiment... or maybe, better, a cake-mix with the proper ingredients. Or a structure made with the right building materials.
2) We also discovered that... our community is also formed in faith, love and hope.
--Faith in our Lord creates a covenant-community. We are a church because of our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
--Our love is the power of the kingdom.
--Our hope keeps our community going forward. We keep on keeping on because we are assured of our future.
We, our covenant-community; we are Faith. We are Love. We are hope. Metaphorically, we are a living thing that was born and has power and grows. It is an organic metaphor.
3) There is nothing as powerful as a sacrificial, authentic, God-glorifying, gentle, life-sharing, blameless, truth-speaking... covenant-community! We can out love the world! A competition metaphor. This may be common in our society... We compete with Satan to win in life!
4) Whenever the storm clouds of suffering are gathering in your life, you will need faith; a faith in the word of God, which works within you to produce obedience, forged in a faith-community, transformed into trust, which is victorious! Sometimes it rains on us. We need to be strong enough to survive. Jesus said... The wiseman built his house upon the rock...
We have already talked in lots of different life-metaphors... let’s read chapter 3.
Let’s psychoanalyze Paul... psychologist fun plus preacher fun... double the fun.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-4 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
Let’s stop here. Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica before he had time to teach them everything they needed. Paul has been hindered from going back to them. Paul is anxious to find out if they are still faithful. Paul knew they were going to be persecuted. Paul says they were “destined” for affliction. They were not to be moved. Perhaps, this is a bunker life-metaphor? They are to be strong!
1 Thessalonians 3:5-6 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you-
Paul was so anxious for what had happened to the Thessalonians. He sent Timothy to go find out. That the tempter had gotten to them; had discouraged them. So, Timothy traveled the 355 miles to Thessalonica. Stayed a few days. Then, traveled 355 miles back to bring Paul the good news. Their faith and love were solid. Needed some help with their hope, because Nick had been killed. But, Paul was thrilled that the Thessalonians were good.
Paul views himself as a laborer; a builder. The Thessalonians are his work. Paul was worried that his labor would be in vain. The life-metaphor is he is of a worker. Paul lived his life as a laborer building the church brick-by-brick. This is helpful. I think we have hit on the key to understanding Paul’s life-metaphor.
Let’s keep working on this concept.
1 Thessalonians 3:7-10 ...for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now, we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
Wow, you can feel the joy Paul had when Timothy got back with his report on the Thessalonians. Paul danced with joy. Paul thanked God that they were standing fast in their faith.
Interesting... “standing fast”. Stand firm. Be tough. Never surrender. Don’t give up. This is another clue to Paul’s life-metaphor. There is the tempter attempting to destroy his building.
This is working...
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Paul’s building is not finished. Paul’s sees the Thessalonians as a continual building project. The Thessalonians as a structure becomes holier and holier; more and more pure; a living thing that becomes more love... until the Lord comes!
When we put all these clues together, I believe Paul’s primary life-metaphor was a builder. Paul was not concerned with his life being a box of chocolates or certainly not a bowl of cherries. I don’t think he viewed his life as “stages”, although he was persecuted and ultimately beheaded, he was never a victim.
Paul saw himself as a builder of people. Each of the churches, he established across the world, were each a structure... a temple. Paul viewed his life as one who remodeled people into the image of Christ building them together with other believers to form beautiful buildings! Paul endured hardship, and suffering and persecution because none of that mattered. He was on a mission to build beautiful temples to his God
Let’s follow his life in some of his other writings to see if this life-metaphor is correct.
Beginning with his conversion...
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go, for Paul is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
Romans 15:20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Perhaps, the clearest place where Paul expresses this life-metaphor...
1 Corinthians 3:10-16 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
Wow, what a powerful life-metaphor... Paul, the Builder. His life was lived to the glory of God by building temples!
I guess that leaves us with a thought. What is my/your life-metaphor? How do we view our life? In your inner-thoughts; in your self-dialogue who are you? What is your life-metaphor?
Let me challenge you to think about this your life-metaphor.
What drives your... decision making?
Where is your... loyalty?
What... are you fears?
Where... is joy?
When... do you feel the presence of God?
What... resonates with you?
What are you... proud of?
I think you have a choice in your life-metaphor. Paul would advocate that you consider yourself a builder in the kingdom of God.
Los Alamos Church of Christ
October 14, 2018