It is one of the “poignant” scenes in M*A*S*H that bring tears to your eyes. Charles Emerson Winchester, The Third, has decided that he needs to talk with Father Mulcahey because he’s afraid that he might not be a “true” Winchester. After all these years of living up to the family name and fulfill the dreams his family had for him, he’s been shocked with that realization. After some gentle prodding, Winchester revealed to Father Mulcahey that he snored and that not only did he snore, like a common factory worker, he was afraid that he might end up sitting in front of a TV watching roller derby and that he might not be better than anyone else. (Did I mention that those tears were of laughter?)
Father Mulcahey, whose father was a factory worker, and who himself enjoyed watching roller derby was not sympathetic to Winchester, to say the least. As he ended the tirade, he let Winchester know that not only was he not better than anyone else, most people were better than he was. If you had a good father, you probably worked hard to live up to his expectations, and, even harder to what you thought his expectations were. As Paul described his relationship with the Thessalonians, he described his group as being like fathers seeking to urge them to live up to God’s expectations. “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
The first thing to see is that Paul reminds the Thessalonians of their relationship. When the truth about Christianity is lived out, it is always lived out in relationship. We are, first, in a relationship with God. We can claim that relationship because of His grace and because Jesus broke the bonds of sin that separated us at the cross. We are in relationship with each other. Nowhere in the Bible do we see “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Paul was with a team on his missionary journeys. He built churches. We are in relationship with each other through the church. It is there we learn to love the unlovable, and care for those in need. As one pastor put it, it’s the practice ground for loving, so that we know how to love others in the world. And, we have a relationship with that world. We are to love them. We are to show them the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. He also reminded them that we are called to live lives that are worthy of God. When people look at us, do they see lives that reflect the nature of Jesus Christ? Can we claim to be a “true” follower of Christ because our lives are worthy of God?
As Paul worked with the Thessalonians on this worthy life, you’ll notice that we don’t see any negatives. He didn’t warn, beat, or threaten them to live such a life; he encouraged, comforted and urged. When we live in the grace of God, we respond to Him out of higher motives. We look at living a life that’s worthy of God as a joy instead of a chore. Obedience is a natural result of a grace filled life. Our obedience comes not as a result of an obligation driven by fear of consequences should we fail, it’s the fruit of the seed planted by grace in our lives. You may snore, work in a factory, watch TV, even roller derby, and you might not seem to be better than anyone else, but if you are walking in Christ; if you are living in the grace that He has set before you, you are worthy of the name of Christ. Don’t let the shackles of your past life drag you down. Don’t let the burden of sin wear you out. Celebrate that relationship with God and with other followers of Christ every day of your life.
Lord, I’m not worthy of Your name by my own efforts, but You have made me worthy by Your love and grace. Help me to share that love and grace with others.