Promise to the Persecuted
Verses: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Leading Question: If someone sends a well-intentioned message that is misunderstood, what steps should one take to put things right?
1. Second Coming instruction, second edition. Apparently Paul’s comments about the return of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4 did not solve all the problems in the church. Some have even suggested that his first letter may have compounded the difficulties, at least in some respects. What is the best way to provide a corrective to a misunderstood message. Does Paul give us a good model that is safe for us to follow?
2. More persecutions. Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonians who are continuing to have difficulty with persecution. His counsel raise two important questions:
Jeremiah 18:19-23, CEV
19 Please, LORD, answer my prayer
20 I tried to help them, but they are paying me back
21 But now I am asking you to let their children starve
22 These people have dug pits and set traps for me, LORD.
23 You know they plan to kill me.
Psalm 139:21-22, NRSV
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
How does one square these calls for vengeance with Jesus’ words on the cross (“Father, forgive them,” Luke 23:34) and his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (“Love your enemies,” Matt. 5:44)? Jesus does speak some hard words. But how does all this guide our lives and how we should speak and think about those who make life difficult for us?
3. Reality of judgment. While we may have serious questions about how to deal with our enemies, Scripture is clear that there is a judgment and 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 certainly affirms that perspective. How should we present this reality of Judgment in a world that often cringes at judgment messages, even while it is destroying the poor and the needy?