Faith in Jesus often means opposing social norms. The Christian demands justice, lives a life of mercy, and bases all actions on love. The gospel itself also seems like foolishness to those who don’t believe it (1 Corinthians 1:26–31). Thus, we should not be surprised when we experience opposition. Paul the apostle came to expect it.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 3:3b–5:
“For you yourselves know that we are appointed for this, for indeed when we were with you we told you beforehand that we were about to be afflicted, just as indeed it happened, and you know. Because of this, I also, when I could endure it no longer, sent in order to know your faith, lest somehow the tempter tempted you and our labor should be in vain” (LEB).
In this passage in 1 Thessalonians, Paul is further reflecting on the difficulties he and the Christians at Thessalonica have experienced (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16). From the time the Thessalonians came to faith, they experienced persecution (Acts 17:4–10; compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6–8). And Paul had experienced the same throughout his ministry (2 Corinthians 6:3–10).
Paul expected persecution because Jesus, other apostles, and the prophets all experienced the same. In Paul’s mind, his sacrifices for the gospel were part of his overall calling (Philippians 1:29). We should feel the same about our faith in Jesus.
Paul was deeply aware that the faith he professed—when put into action—directly opposed how many people lived. The love that the gospel demands means serving others (John 12:44–13:20). It means justice and mercy for all (Matthew 5:6–7). The gospel makes all people equal before God (Galatians 3:27–29). For the wealthy and powerful, these ideas overthrow their very way of life.
Paul’s gospel meant that the religiously and politically powerful would have to acknowledge their lack of power before God. All must admit that God, and God alone, saves. This makes whatever implements of politics and religion we have ultimately useless, unless they conform to the values of justice, mercy, and equality.
The gospel demands that we start with Jesus—letting him transform us. The gospel is based on self-sacrifice. This means loving others with everything we have, and giving whatever is needed to help the hurting. People living the gospel itself—that’s what our world needs.
In what ways is your life currently out of alignment with the values of gospel—what are some tangible actions you can take to change that? How can you take any persecution you are experiencing and use it for good—for the betterment of others and spreading the good news of Jesus?
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