Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Vibe of Timothy

There is a housekeeping vibe to Paul’s first letter to his co-worker Timothy. These are his last words before he meets his end at the hands of Emperor Nero and he has business to attend to. Timothy’s job is to carry on Paul’s work and he has his work cut out – the early church is under threat from new thinking that embellishes the original message of God. Not good. Timothy is no Paul and needs moral support in the form of this letter.

The vibe is one of putting people straight – Timothy has to stop the rot setting in and must set a good example of how a good Christian should live. Paul offers advice on the importance of avoiding tit for tat arguments, how men and women should worship, how church elders should behave and who should be on the receiving end of charity.

Paul’s second letter has a sadder, more sorrowful vibe. He has been abandoned by everyone except Luke and is in a prison cell waiting to die. He tells Timothy to embrace the vibes of righteousness, faith, love and peace and not to quarrel. He warns of the evil vibes that will reign in the last days before Jesus returns and urges Timothy to have nothing to do with ungodly people. He reminds Timothy of the negativity he endured on his travels and tells him that he too should expect a rough ride.

The vibe gets blacker before rallying again: the scriptures, Paul says, make people wise and help them to be rescued by Jesus but people will turn away from this message. However he is confident that he has done enough himself to get to Heaven. So a happy ending after all.

General vibe: Stick to the script.

Factvibe: ‘Filthy lucre’ gets its first mention in Paul’s letters to Timothy.

Timothy: one of several prison based vibes written by Paul.

Timothy: one of several prison based vibes written by Paul.

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The Vibe of Thessalonians

The relief is tangible in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. There’s been an ugly vibe in Thessalonica and the church is under threat from Jews who are jealous that some people who were interested in becoming Jews now want to be Christians.

Happily, news has arrived that the church is thriving. The general vibe of the letter is one of praise and encouragement. However, there are some weak points and Paul taps a teacherly cane at the blackboard and reminds people that they should exercise love and self-control in sexual matters and shouldn’t fall into the trap of killing time until Jesus returns.

Instead, Paul tells them to get on with life as normal. He offers reassurance to people whose loved ones have died already – the good ones will be the first to be raised from the dead when Jesus returns.

The second letter has a similar vibe and offers further encouragement to the Thessalonian Christians to stand firm in the face of people who want to crush them. Paul hints at the mother of all baddies who he calls ‘The Wicked One’ who will need to show up before Jesus can come down and save the day. And until that day comes, Christians shouldn’t slack off. There’s work to do.

General vibe: Stand firm.

Factvibe: The two letters to the Thessalonians are the oldest vibes in the New Testament, completed little over twenty years after the death of Jesus.

The vibe of Thessalonians, on a drinking vessel

The vibe of Thessalonians, on a drinking vessel

The Vibe of Colossians

Like a teacher wading into a playground scrap, Colossians has an impatient, sort things out vibe. The church in the Greek city of Colossae has been infiltrated by people who don’t want to leave behind the baggage of the things they believed in before they became Christians. This means that the churches in Colossae has become a bit watered down with other beliefs and philosophies. It’s fair to say that Paul is not a fan of this vibe and rolls his righteous sleeves up and tells the church leaders exactly what he thinks of this. He jumps down hard on the vibe that men need to be circumcised in order to enjoy the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Utter rubbish says Paul – the only way to be set free from the mess of our old life is to have faith in Jesus.

The ‘start again’ vibe is strong in Colossians. We are told to put all our worldly desires in a bag under the bed and become new people. Then with Jesus at the wheel, we can live in harmony with one another regardless of who we are or where we were born. A matter of fact, straight down the line, clear as day kind of vibe.

General vibe: Jesus doesn’t need adding to.

Factvibe: Colossae is the only church Paul wrote to but didn’t visit.

Baggage: leave it at the door with your shoes

Baggage: leave it at the door with your shoes

 

The Vibe of Philippians

Philippians has a lovely, warm, everything’s going to be OK vibe. It’s quite personal too – Paul is under house arrest in Rome and is grateful that the church in Philippi has sent him food and other goodies. He is happy even though he is a prisoner – if he lives, he has the spirit of Jesus in him, if he dies he will be with Jesus – a ‘can’t lose’ vibe that fills the letter with joy.

He encourages the Philippians to stand strong and to look after one another and the vibe is only spoiled by some holier than thou Jewish converts who are telling everyone they need to keep the Jewish laws in order to be a true Christian. Paul stamps a righteous foot at them and tells us it’s better to have faith and put our trust in Jesus than to follow the Jewish law books.

There is an urgent call to Christians to shine like stars and set a good example to others. Paul wags a finger at people who are preoccupied with worldly vibes, not spiritual ones and we are reminded to keep our eye on the prize that is a place in Heaven. Our heads should be full of the vibes of truth, nobility, rightness, purity, peace, honour and loveliness. An idealistic, hopeful, hippie without the bong vibe

General vibe: Joy.

Factvibe: Philippi was the first church in Europe, set up by Paul in around 50AD.

Shine like these says the vibe of Philippians

Shine like these says the vibe of Philippians

The Vibe of Ephesians

There’s a nice ‘we’re all in this together’ vibe to Ephesians. Thanks to Jesus, Paul says, we are set free from our old ways and regardless of whether we’re Jews or Gentiles, our faith should bring us together. The vibe is that we are all part of one body, so for the body to work properly we all have to pull together, wherever we’re from.

Paul draws a line in the sand – there should be a difference between the old us and the new us. New us should be free from all the dirt that was part of our lives before God intervened, and new us should be full of the kindness and forgiveness that Jesus has shown us. In this new life, the vibe is very much give and take. Wives, children, and slaves are told to submit to their husbands, parents and masters but in return, husbands, parents and masters are told to be kind, balanced and fair and not to abuse their power.

The letter ends with a war vibe – we are warned that we are not fighting flesh and blood but the rulers of darkness. To win we will need the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and, above all, prayer.

General vibe: We’re all in this together.

Factvibe: Ephesians was written as a ‘pass the vibe’ letter to be shared among a group churches in what is now western Turkey. 

The body - we're all part of it.  Thus runs the vibe of Ephesians.

The body – we’re all part of it. Thus runs the vibe of Ephesians.

The Vibe of Galatians

There’s an urgent vibe to Galatians. Some teachers have started spreading the message that, in order to be proper Christians, converts need to follow all the Jewish laws, right down to circumcision. It’s clear that Paul is experiencing a hands clutching head ‘oh no’ vibe and he rattles off this letter to set matters straight. Anyone can be a Christian without jumping through hoops, he says. All that is needed is the belief that Jesus was who he said he was – the Son of God who died horribly as punishment for all the bad things we have done (and will continue to do).

Paul is clear that the legalistic vibe of the Jewish law is at odds with the freedom that comes with following Jesus. The Jewish law is history, the future is in the peace and joy that comes with relating to people in a generous, humanitarian way. The rulebook has been thrown away, there is now a new rule and the vibe of that rule is love.

General vibe: You needn’t be Jewish to follow Jesus.

Factvibe: Though Paul’s letter to the Galatians appears after the letters to the Corinthians in the Bible, it was written eight years earlier.

The Phylactery - one of many Jewish vibes which Christians don't need to bother with.

The Phylactery – one of many Jewish vibes which Christians don’t need to bother with.

The Vibe of Corinthians

It’s all kicking off in the Greek seaport of Corinth and Paul’s first letter arrives like a teacher walking into an unruly classroom. Still, rather than knocking heads together, Corinthians has a problem solving vibe.

The locals see themselves as pretty enlightened, fond of an argument and happy to share opinions. Which is all well and good, but when this leads to reimagining Jesus in a way that is plainly wrong, a grown up needs to step in. Paul ticks the Corinthians off for creating cliques – we should all be united in what we believe. Paul also gives human wisdom a bit of a dressing down – it’s not about being clever that matters, it’s about being wise spiritually.

There’s a bit of an ‘anything goes’ vibe to the city of Corinth and Paul is keen to lay down some boundaries regarding sex and relationships. After a crash course on love which anyone who has ever been to a wedding will be familiar with, Paul continues with helpful tips on worship, settling disputes, marriage and taking communion.

Once the first letter has been sent off, the vibe in Corinth gets even messier but things eventually sort themselves out. In letter number two, Paul explains why he was so heavy in his first letter and tells the Corinthians how pleased he is that everything is OK again. He then suggests they have a whip round for the poor in Jerusalem.

Letter two ends with a vibe of righteous indignation – some rabble rousers in Corinth have been suggesting that Paul isn’t the real deal and that they are better followers of Jesus than he is. Time (and the fact that his letters take up almost a third of the New Testament) proves the wise money was on Paul, not the dissenters. Egos, personality clashes, moral dilemmas – all in all, quite a human vibe.

General vibe: God’s wisdom is better than ours.

Factvibe: Paul fired off four letters in all to the church in Corinth but only the second and third made it into the Bible.

Hedonism and Christianity. When vibes collide....

Hedonism and Christianity. When vibes collide….