In the New Testament, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a reference to persecution. As followers of Jesus began to live out their faith, articulate their loyalties, and reset their priorities, their neighbors noticed and were not always happy about it:
- When they confessed that Jesus was Lord and none other, including the Emperor, neighbors got nervous that the wrath of Rome would visit the neighborhood and not just the odd Jesus-follower down the street.
- When disciples decided not to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and instead gathered to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, some believed the whole block had, as the saying goes, “gone to pot.”
- Likewise, in our reading for this Sunday from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 we hear the apostle Paul praising the church at Thessalonica for their faithfulness despite the persecutions they faced.
The way these Jesus-followers lived, every day, proclaimed what defined them: their relationship with God in Christ. Passages about persecutions, I admit, challenge me. A lot. Overall, I’m very comfortable. My everyday life fits in well with most of my neighbors. I go to work. I spend time with my family. I enjoy down time at the park. I water my plants. I like a good cookout. I work at being neighborly. If I didn’t mention it, I don’t know if my neighbors would have any idea that I worship anyone or anything.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT asking for persecutions. Here that, God?! I’m NOT asking for persecutions! But passages like 1 Thess. 1:1-10 move me to ask, “Am I really living in such a way that my WHOLE LIFE reflects what defines me: my relationship with God in Christ?”
Are you? What would your neighbors say?
See you Sunday…