That said, let’s dig into Paul’s closing words to the Thessalonian church. I’ve found that how I react to different passages in the Bible tells me things about myself, both in general and where I am in my life at that particular reading. What resonates with me, what comforts me? What makes me uncomfortable, what makes me put up my fists inside? What do I have questions about? For me, reading the Bible is often an experience in being forced to get honest with myself before God.
I normally don’t like fruit flavors in my chocolate; in the words of The Offspring, you gotta keep ’em separated. But you know what I’ll make an exception for? Orange. Especially if it’s Theo’s Orange.
It seems we’ve been flung back into the briar patch of controversial verses, and without the advantage of being rabbits. The middle chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians is rife with thorns, and here we are in the thick of the thicket, so let’s get to working our way through it.
Wow, that’s a wake-up call. I opened up my Bible this morning expecting Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians to start off similar to the first one–a little “grace and peace to you,” gratitude to God for the letter’s recipients, a pat on the back and a little “Hey, goin’ good, you guys!” And instead, Paul goes off with all the intensity of Jonathan Edwards rapping over an NF beat. Dang, son.
Confession time, guys. The final third of yesterday’s chapter gets into some end-timesy stuff that I declined even to touch with a ten-foot pole. But, knowing that Paul continues his discussion of what he terms “The Day of the Lord” in this final chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians, I was only postponing the inevitable. If nothing else, I am an inveterate procrastinator, and as regards his return, some would charge Jesus Christ with inveterate procrastination too.
You guys remember the Strong Bad Email episode “Dragon,” right? Where Strong Bad, when asked to draw a dragon, invents one of the most iconic characters of the Homestar Runner universe, Trogdor the Burninator? In the middle segment, Strong Bad runs a dragon-drawing class, and as he checks up on his students, he finds Strong Mad carving the word “DAGRON” into the table. Strong Mad’s attempt is so off-base that Strong Bad simply responds: “You just…keep doin’ your thing, man.”
This is a pretty straightforward chapter. In a sentence: Paul is glad to hear from Timothy that the Thessalonians have stood by their faith even under trial and tribulation. Once again, he thanks God for the joy he receives from hearing the good report about the Thessalonian church, and he looks forward to seeing them in person today. But I wanted to zero in on one particular verse, and one particular verb, because once again Paul is reminding us: you’re gonna have to suffer.