Monday, November 10, 2008

In Search Of Truth, 2nd Thessalonians 3:1-18


Paul begins to close up this short letter with a request for prayer. He first asks for the word of the Lord to spread rapidly and be "glorified", to be honorably recognized for what it truly is. Paul also asks for prayer that they he and his companions would be "delivered from perverse and evil men, for not all have faith."

The implication here is that some people who appear to be "Christians" are actually serving their own agendas in the "Christian Community".

But Paul says that, by contrast, God is faithful. The Greek word here for "faithful" means trustworthy, among other things. God has a proven record that makes him worth trusting in. He's the world's safest bet.

In verse 4 and 5, Paul expresses confidence in the growth and developing spiritual maturity of the Thessalonians, praying that God will further direct their love and increase their ability to stand firm in what they have learned.

Beginning in verse 6, Paul deals with the topic of idle people. Christians who, for various reasons, were not working. These people were living off of the work of others and even using their free time to stick their noses where they don't belong.

Although they had the right to be supported by those they led and taught, Paul and his companions chose to work for their own food, setting an example for those they led. This is powerful leadership and a trait to look for in any church leader. But it shouldn't be limited to our leaders. If we really want to teach truth to others, we should be the first to examine our own lives and line them up with what we are saying.

Paul says that the Thessalonians should "withdraw" from these idle people(v. 6), adding the command for these "busybodies" to "work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread."(v.12) Working in "quiet fashion" doesn't mean we all have to literally become silent. Paul is contrasting this with the pointless "hustle and bustle" that looked like a lot of activity but produced nothing. Paul wants for these people to stop drawing attention to themselves and learn to contribute in a practical way.

Being in a community with a bunch of flawed people that annoy or offend us can be tough. God knows this better than anybody, so Paul says "do not grow weary of doing good." (v.13) Even though it's tough, the Thessalonians were asked to not associate with people that were unwilling to obey what they heard from Paul. But at the same time, they weren't supposed to be treated as an outcast or enemy. But warned sharply, in the context of genuine love and concern.

We very often get one or the other of these ingredients, don't we? We either choose to love everyone and accept all forms of behavior, or we sharply warn, using strong words a little affection. It's much easier to use one tactic or the other. The challenge is to combine both, which at the outset seem mutally exclusive. But just because finding that mingling of the two is tough, doesn't mean the two aren't compatible.

Over and over again, the Bible presents a way of living that doesn't allow us to "settle into" an extreme philosophy. We're asked to constantly balance our actions and evaluate our words and motives. Our minds have to be engaged at all times. There's no room for "doctrinal auto-pilot" in the Biblical Christian's life.

Paul ends this letter by writing with his won hand. In most of his letters we can assume that one of his companions took dictation from Paul. But Paul like to sign his letters personally so that his audience could trust their reliability.

This is another fascinatinjg aspect of Biblical Christianity. It invites logical investigation. God wants you to examine the evidence and verify the credibility of the Bible. I think we often put all religious texts on an equal playing field, assuming that they are equally valid. But do we ask ourselves where each of these religious texts came from? Who wrote them? What are the credentials of the authors. What evicence do they give to support their claims? Have these texts been reliably preserved through history?

The Bible invites this form of investigation, but how often do we ask for evidence that the Koran(Islam) or the Vedas(Hinduism) are reliable sources of information about the true nature of reality? If we really want to know what's really real, shouldn't we ask for real, testable evidence?

Paul didn't want the Thessalonians to believe just any philosophy. He wanted them to learn the truth. And so he made it a priority to make his letter identifiable as legitimate so that there would be no confusion about what is the truth and what is not. Spirituality sounds nice, but to deal with the real issues of life, death and everything afterward, we need truth that is just as real and verifiable.

Next Week

The adventures of Paul continue in Acts Chapter 18!

Coffee House Question

In the social circles you most often travel in, do people lean more toward accepting all forms of behavior, or coming down too hard on each other?

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