What is it about the human psyche that causes us to want to be like someone else? Why are we never comfortable in our own skin? In our business, I’ve been known to teach on the trap of “compare-itis.” That is when we find ourselves stuck in a pattern of looking at those around us, comparing ourselves in unhealthy ways. We find ourselves wanting to be thinner, younger (or older), better speakers, better musicians, have nicer clothes, bigger house, etc. We are always striving to have a better this or better that.
You’d be fooling yourself if you say you’ve never done any of this comparing. Paul is giving us some words of wisdom here. Instead of imitating another because of a physical attribute, Paul wants us to imitate those with greater faith than we have. I take it a step farther and remember the fad of “WWJD” – that is, What Would Jesus Do?
When is the last time you asked someone to pray for you? It’s really an intimate request because you’re asking someone to go to the Father on your behalf. You have revealed your vulnerabilities to another human. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have privileged access to God. When we can pray for someone else in their time of need, it is the best thing we can do.
We may often wish we could help more or give more to our friends in need. Especially now during a time of pandemic when our hands are tied a bit in how much we can interact. When we remember how powerful prayer is, it’s easier to want to be the prayer warrior for all our friends and family.
Did you know that someone is praying for you simply by thanking God for you? We may never know who those people are. And that’s okay! Paul wanted his readers to know that they were appreciated. There is no greater honor than for someone to tell you, “Hey, I thank God for you!”
In turn, we are probably thanking God for those people in our lives who have made a difference in some way. Maybe it’s the Sunday school teacher you had as a kid, or the neighbor down the street who brought your lost dog back to you, or your very own children who bring you joy every day. The list is endless when you get started. How often do we actually take time to thank God for these people and say a prayer of protection for them?
This passage seems to be full of riddles and images that are hard to comprehend. Even St. Augustine was known to have said something along the lines of “I don’t get it.” Paul is writing this second letter because he needs to clear up a misunderstanding about Jesus’ return. “Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us.”
Apparently, the Thessalonians had an understanding of what Paul was referring to when he said, “the day of the Lord.” He doesn’t offer any sort of explanation here for us. But he does break into a story to give some more clarity. We meet the two players: the man of lawlessness and Jesus. We know Jesus is always dependable, and Paul wanted to make sure the Thessalonians were clear on that.
For those who have never felt persecution for their faith, the first part of today’s reading must seem a little foreign. Certainly, if we have encountered such it’s still hard to imagine what it was like for those early Christians. Most of Paul’s audience here would be non-Jews who hadn’t known God for long at all. It must feel like they had just jumped into a burning fire.
So many early Christians lost their lives for their faith. Around the world today, we see those same things happening at an alarming rate. While many years have passed, the truth still remains. “God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven.” We are included in this promise of rest even if we haven’t ever been persecuted personally.