I read 2 Thessalonians this morning and was astonished at how much the apostle Paul had learned about my life lately.
I say this tongue in cheek, of course, in the spirit in which Mark Twain allegedly quipped, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
It used to be that my eyes glazed over at the Pauline passages about persecution, like this one:
“… we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven …” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7).
All this talk about suffering and being afflicted at the hands of some faceless people! All this talk about needing to endure it and wait for Christ! I could not relate. I had to admit that the meanderings of Paul (and Jesus) did not describe me. I had no experience of being harassed or hated for my faith, or of knowing anyone who had. It made those sections of Scripture—and therefore the whole of Scripture, to some extent—a bit alien and abstract for me.
But praise the Lord, see how much the Scriptures have “learned” about our lives in the last few years! Increasingly, our American experience has come to resemble conditions in first century Thessalonica, so that we can finally feel a part of the cloud of witnesses and the suffering saints.
A sampler: The fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is banned in Boston. (When I was a kid, if a movie or a book was “banned in Boston” it was because it was morally filthy, but nowadays a company that is not pro-same-sex marriage is unwelcome in Beantown.) Last week, CNN host Rachel Nichols, latching onto the feeding frenzy of the Donald Sterling affair, dropped the hint that the Orlando Magic’s Rich DeVos should be the next NBA owner to go, for his pro-family views.
An acquaintance recently told me that I should check out a website called “Right Wing Watch,” subtitled “A project of People for the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right wing movement.” She said my name is mentioned on it. I hardly believed the woman, but I looked and it was true.