The author of Second Thessalonians surely takes the church to task for its laziness. He tells the faithful to “keep away from believers who are living in idleness.” Ostracism: that seems a pretty harsh admonition for laziness.
As always, there is more to the story. While First Thessalonians is in response to the church’s looking for signs of the Lord’s return, Second Thessalonians is written in response to the church’s living as if he had already come again. The epistle writer cautions the church against an untrue story that some seem to be living out of, a story that implies that because Jesus will come again soon, they don’t need to plan for the future. They take advantage of others’ generosity, living undisciplined lives and knowing that someone else will meet their needs.
How tempting it is to tell the version of the story that benefits us the most! Christ has commanded us to deal generously with others. But at what point does our self-talk become deception? When does our deception—even of ourselves—begin to separate us from God and from others?
In Second Thessalonians, the people have crossed that line. Their undisciplined lives have become a stumbling block for the community, and they are in danger of being given the cold shoulder. The writer advises that those who can take care of themselves, do so. Discipline teaches us what it means to be a disciple. May we be honest in our work as we face the true story about ourselves.
God, I confess that sometimes I tell my story in the way that benefits me the most, even if it is deceptive. I pray that I would see the truth about myself and others more clearly and, in doing so, would honor you with my discipline. Amen.
Isaiah 65:17-25 looks toward God’s creation of “new heavens and a new earth.” Jerusalem itself is not to be restored but created anew, a place in which life will be revered and protected and in which God will permit no harm to any of creation. The New Testament lessons remind us of the reality— the sometimes painful reality—of the present. Second Thessalo- nians 3:6-13 warns against the disorderly conduct of those who believe that the newness of the eschatological future permits them license in the present. Luke 21:5-19 adds an element of sobriety to the singing of new songs and the expectation of a new future. The faithful are called to bear witness to God’s future in the present, precisely when the new future cannot be seen and even when it seems most improbable.
• Read Isaiah 65:17-25. How does the promise of the new heavens and new earth encourage to tell a new story?
• Read Psalm 118. Which story will you tell? The one of your captivity . . . or the one of your salvation?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Where in your life do you need to be more disciplined so that you do not deceive yourself?
• Read Luke 21:5-19. What signs from God are you seeking instead of trusting in what you know about God’s character?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.