2 Thessalonians is written to remind us of what matters most: that we hear the words of Christ, that we follow the teachings of the Lord, that we share God’s love with everyone around us, and that we rejoice in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for each of us.
To understand Paul’s writings, you have to understand the art of letter writing. Paul wasn’t writing a collection of instruction books for the whole of Christianity, he was writing as an apostolic leader to communities of faith he planted. How we understand his writings will be wholly dependent on how we understand why he wrote.
“We’ve always done it that way” is one of the least faithful responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit gifts us for far greater freedom than being slaves to our past. There is a more faithful way.
We need to rethink our usage of the word “evangelical.” Evangelism doesn’t require that we tell others how sinful their lives are. Evangelism stems, from a Biblical perspective, from acknowledging that in Christ we are a new creation, and are, as such, gifted with the ability to see others through God’s lenses.
Paul makes it clear that if we’re living according to God’s desire, our first focus – our primary desire – will be the cares, interests, and concerns of others. How does our stewardship – our giving of time, talent, and treasure – support this call?
Paul helped structure the early church to live into God’s desire for the Church. Only, hierarchy and power perverted that design. Building up bigger buildings for ourselves, the church in America looks very little like what Paul envisioned. To reclaim that vision is challenging, but it’s necessary work to become who God has created us to be.
The gifting of the Spirit at Pentecost gives us the rawest and truest glimpse of God’s desire for the church: to be the living witness and testimony to the goodness of God in the world. Everything else the church does should be to better serve this purpose.
Labor Day is not a celebration of how great our workforce is, it is a reminder that we are called to be something greater than we have been before. Hebrews 13 offers a similar call to the faithful. It is not a text of how great we are at living our faith, it’s a call to how much greater we should be as a people of faith.
What we really have here is a parable about a persistent and vindictive widow who was willing to do whatever it took to get her way … and an unjust narcissistic judge who changed a legal ruling for fear of his own safety. The parables aren’t as straight forward and clean as we want them to be, and for good reason, to challenge us to greater faithfulness.
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard isn’t about the laborers, and it’s not about the vineyard. Jesus says it’s about the landowner. To understand the Kingdom as Jesus describes it, we must re-hear the text as a provocative call to radical justice that cares more about the well-being of the community than about any one person’s claim to wealth.