Working Through the First Half of 2 Thessalonians

I met with a friend the other day to talk through some of what life has thrown at us the past few months, and in doing so, we stumbled onto a conversation he’d had with his men’s group.

His men’s group was working through the first half of 2 Thessalonians. Long story short, they were thinking about how to grasp the relevance of Paul’s message of hope and end time revelations to this young, struggling, persecuted church. They were trying to understand it within our experience with “church” in a society/culture that could arguably be categorized as “Christian” or “Post-Christian.” When they broached the idea that today our brothers in Africa and the east were experiencing a concept of “church” that was much more similar to the Thessalonian church, a friend leaned in and offered something rather profound.

The difference is that these churches are in a very real fight in faith, while we are fighting boredom in our faith.

Is that really true? If so, is it due to indifference? Is it due to the fact that we want to be coddled? Is it due the fact that we don’t want to cause waves or deal with the hard stuff? Are we becoming so set in our ways that coddling is the preferred way of life rather than causing a wave now and then in order to tell the truth? Are we choosing to only understand half the story—our loving God and forgetting about our disciplining God?

I find it interesting that we as a church (maybe I should use I) know how to answer the question “What does it mean to be born again?” but we struggle to answer the question “What does the Kingdom of God mean?” I understand why we can answer what it means to be born again—anyone who knows Christ understands how HUGE that is. And I know that Jesus talked about it in John 3—he actually talked about it twice in the Gospels. But I just learned today that Jesus mentioned the Kingdom of God “110” times throughout the Gospel.

If God mentioned something 110 times, shouldn’t we have an answer to that question as well?

Have we become so fixated on salvation that we have forgotten what it means to be disciples? Are we so fixated on salvation that we have forgotten the fact that we are supposed to live life differently, that due to our relationship with Jesus we love people differently? We forgive people differently. We do life differently.

Is this all because of the desire to be coddled rather than a carrying a bullhorn for Christ? Maybe we are afraid of getting hurt. Maybe we are afraid that someone will take our comments too personal. Maybe we are afraid to talk about this out loud in fear of being shunned…in fear of not being liked or being viewed differently. But isn’t that the path we choose? Isn’t living a life that is Christ centered living a life that is different? The path of least resistance is not always an option.

Anyway, to wrap this up, my friend ended it with the following, “Is that it? Were we called to hang out and try not to fall asleep (like the parable of the Ten Virgins in Mt. 25) before the bridegroom comes?” I think we both know the answer. I think we also knew that it is one of our jobs to allow God to use us to sharpen our brothers and sisters—to build them up—to help them grow, to allow them to help us to grow, to prepare one another, to keep us looking toward God, to stand by each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even when one of us stumbles.

The little c church (versus God’s big C church) is there for all. We are to welcome everyone into our sanctuaries. We are to welcome them into the big C church. We are to help them grow closer to Christ. Along the way, we are there to help—not judge—but actually help.

Anyway, I love conversations like this. I love to be nudged. I love to refresh my lantern. I love to share.

Michael Johnson
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