Persecution is a sign of God’s judgement – 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

The prayers of Paul

This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in one of the orders he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

My look at the Bible is always influenced by autism as it affects everything about me, including my thinking. This passage reminded me of a report that showed autistic people tend to be more honest than non-autistics, given a scenario that you could do something illegal and not be found out, would you do it? Autistic people are less likely to say yes. Strangely the psychologists behind the report saw this honesty as a defect.

A rainbow coloured infinity sign, a symbol of neurodiversity, on a gold background meaning autism.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore 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 judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God,

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 ESVUK

Paul has already prayed with thanks for the Thessalonian church being persecuted in the first letter. I have included verse 5 in this reading because it gives a different light to the readings, it says this is proof of God’s justice, but who is being judged? It is clearly not the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul is praising them and giving thanks, so it must be the persecutors. It is a sign that they are being judged not just because they are persecuting. They are persecuting because they are being judged.

Like the psychologists who see honesty as a problem because they have a vested interest in presenting autistics and autism as a problem to be solved, persecutors have a vested interest in keeping things the same. They see people who have left everything to follow Jesus (the disciples in Mark 10:28) as a threat. In the end, all Christians are asked to make the same sacrifice, to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. No more seeing money or celebrity as something to hanker after, which is a threat to those whose existence is about riches or idolise pop stars.

Persecutors are already judged. They may not see it that way. They have a vested interest. We are being bombarded with images of celebrities on social media, even being asked to hate them because they now look like people in their 60s rather than the youthful 20-year-olds they were in the 1980s as if ageing is something that can be avoided. Ageing is natural, youth is not an idol to be worshipped instead of God.

That is why Paul rejoices that the Thessalonians were being persecuted. In the first letter, it was because it was evidence that their faith was real, here because it is evidence that the world is already being judged by God for its ungodly standards.

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