“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of humanity, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
She’s afraid she won’t get into heaven. I know she’s prayed the “sinner’s prayer” dozens of times. No one would ever label her a bad person and she’s been an active church member for most of her life. Still, there are moments when anxiety and fear grip her. Moments, when a self-condemning voice inside her tells her that there’s no way God would let her into paradise.
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica the Apostle Paul addressed one of the community’s biggest fears, exclusion.
The Thessalonians were worried that the members of their church who had died would be left out when Christ returned. If they were dead, how would they be able to meet Christ who was set to return at any moment? Would those who were still living then be eternally separated from their loved ones who died before Christ’s return? The fear of missing out grieved them.
In a picturesque and somewhat perplexing response, Paul reassures them that God is the God of the living and the dead and that the same resurrection power that was at work in Christ will be at work in them and in those they love.
1 Thessalonians is one of Paul’s first letters. I think his skills improved over time. In a later letter to the church in Corinth, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned a much simpler response to fears and anxieties of exclusion and separation.
Love never fails.
Whenever my beloved friend shares with me her fears of standing alone, barred from the gates of heaven, I tell her that the God who has brought her this far has no intention of leaving her. I try to remind her in every way I can that “Love never fails.”