12/6/12 Megan Ebel (C’15)
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
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, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. -1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
How do we show God to those who refuse to see him? I am in no way the pinnacle example of a Christian who is vocal with her religion, constantly telling friends, family, and even strangers how the spirit of God has been in their lives and changed them for the better. Though there have been many moments in which I wish I could stand up for my faith, 99% of the time, I do not have the courage for that kind of discipleship - but I wish I did. How do I answer the questions of those that don’t believe, when I don’t even know the answers? For example, what does one say in response when someone asks what “heaven” looks like? Or, what does God look like? What is my response to someone who says I am led on by a false relationship with a false being? Do I fight it or do I ignore it?
Lately, my relationship with God has been crucial and grown. I have gone through some pretty negative things: major tragedy, trauma and extreme trials; heartbreak resulted. The entire time, I felt God was with me and those who were involved in the negative events, guiding us all to do right in his eyes. The Sewanee community I have come into contact with through these months, my growth in faith has been a point of happiness.
As with any college community, we are all testing our boundaries and beliefs, and thus, not all of us are at a close point in our lives with God. One evening during a discussion, I bravely I stood up for my religion. So often I have seen Christianity shrugged off as a discriminatory, love-less, and judgmental “cult” and this discussion was no different. Though the ideals of Christianity change slightly depending on how you were raised or what kind of church you attended growing up, I have never heard a Christian deny that the one essential you must have to “pass the test of Christianity” is undying love for everyone. Perhaps those who look down on our religion and our God, or simply do not understand have never witnessed His work because LOVE has never been truly shown to them.
I believe in God because, through my distress and affliction in the past months, the LOVING community of Sewanee has shown me new ways to view God’s work. I have been introduced to the positive effects of my trials and tragedies, and how God protected each and every one of those involved. And through his love, I was brought to a new and fortified faith in Him. Perhaps the hatred that people and groups have experienced need extra attention in love so that faith in a God who loves all his followers despite their differences or sins or successes or failures, can be restored and that awesome LOVE that believers experience can be experienced by all.