Monday, January 12th

“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

 

If you read these verses closely, and slowly, and let the mental images they paint dance across your mind – you will be surprised.

 

If you think of God as a kindly old man who wouldn’t hurt a flea, you will have a tough time with “it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you.”

 

If your image of Jesus is the gentle robed shepherd with children of all different colors on his lap it might be hard to also see Jesus “with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel.”

 

If your vision of eternal life is happy people with new wings playing hards on cotton clouds above streets of gold, you might be struck by “These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

 

And if you have come to the point of trusting that you are being saved by grace through faith in Jesus, you just might end up, like I do, stubbing our “faith toes” on the lines which open and close this passage, “asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith.”  (If the faith is about our being worthy rather than God being gracious, we’re probably in trouble.)

 

So what do we do with these verses?  Here are the choices people have arrived at through the years.  We might choose to firmly believe them and just leave the fact that Paul completely contradicts himself in other places up in the air as a mystery of the faith.  We might argue (as I did last week) that this is how Paul thought earlier in his career but that his thinking evolved over time.  We might argue, as the introduction to this letter in my study Bible does, that Paul might not have actually written 2 Thessalonians but that it might have been written in his name by someone else. Or, as do the vast majority of Christians who never really actually study the Bible, we might just ignore it.

 

I don’t believe in ignoring the Bible.  But I also believe that what the Bible DOES is as important, if not more so, than what the Bible SAYS.  This morning, I hear these verses as good news in my life.  It is helpful this morning to know that Jesus hasn’t forgotten me, that I’m included among the faithful this morning, and that the ultimate destiny I share – whatever it looks like – will be good.  This morning I heard these verses as gospel.

 

There are lots of other mornings when I have woken in a very different place and verses like these would have shivered my timbers.  They would have driven me to confession for fear of being left behind because of my own unworthiness.  I would have heard theses very same verses as law.

 

However you might have heard these verses, they certainly woke us up on a Monday.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we hear so many different images of you in the scriptures, some kindly, some fearful, some welcomed, some not so much.  Keep us mindful this day and this week of who you are, who you are for us, and who we are on your behalf to the world we will encounter along the way.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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One Response to “Monday, January 12th”

  1. Dwyne Patrick Says:

    And perhaps as Jewish Rabbis and talmudic scholars sometimes say we should read and re-read these until we find the compassionate message within the barren words.

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