lent 2013 001bGod did not call us to immorality but to holiness.

(1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 7)

One of the traditional themes of Lent is self-disciple: refraining not just from the things we know are wrong, but also from the things we like but which can lead to trouble.

This bit of Paul’s writing is not fashionable. “Control your body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion” (1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verses 4 – 5) If you are of the “I can do what I like if it does not hurt anyone else” school of ethics, then this may not be popular. Self-control and holiness might not be fashionable – it might even seem hopelessly esoteric but Paul’s point is actually rather practical. In fact, a key point here is not about stopping people having a good time; rather it is the fact that it is wrong to exploit other people. Too often we read of people who prey on those weaker than themselves – whether in age, physical strength or maturity.

One way of understanding the concept of holiness, which I’ve found helpful, is to ask this question: “Could I do this in heaven?” That is not to ask whether something is physically possible, but whether it would be permissible in heaven. Some things are clear-cut: adultery is a definite “No”. The other 9 commandments are pretty obvious I would say as well. Mind you, the answer sometimes begins with “it depends” – such as eating an ice cream, for example.

I suppose I would be the first to admit that being holy is very difficult, but it is worth pursuing – it’s just that we can’t do it by ourselves, that’s all.

A collect from “Common Worship”

Almighty God, you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer collect for Lent 2, contemporary language)