It’s lovely to have you join us this Tuesday as we conclude our podcasts on 2 Thessalonians. This week we are thinking about what our lives proclaim; and today our key question is “Do I proclaim peace under pressure?”
Let’s read 2 Thessalonians 3 v14-16 together, from the Message translation:
“If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don’t let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he’ll think twice. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares. May the Master of Peace himself give you the gift of getting along with each other at all times, in all ways. May the Master be truly among you!”
When I was writing this podcast I was unsure whether to use the NIV or Message translation. In the NIV, v16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” The focus on peace is very clear here, but I love the way that the Message links v16 to the verses that have gone before. Jesus promises us the gift of peace not just to make ourselves feel better, but it is a gift we are to use to overcome problems and pressures, and a gift which enables us to build community with others.
As our vision this year at STC Sheffield is ‘Join us in Building Community’, having the gift of getting along with each other at all times, in all ways, would be very helpful!
However, we can always rely on Paul to tell it like it is, and in these verses he addresses the fact that although proclaiming peace may be our desire; there are likely to be times when as Christians we a) don’t automatically get along with each other and, b) we need to bring a challenge to someone. In Thessalonica, Paul wanted people to challenge those amongst them who were idle, and in his first letter he challenged sexual immorality and drunkenness as well. For us, it may be a different challenge that we need to bring.
At the moment Alan and I are leading the Raising Children course. In the coming sessions we are going to be looking at dealing with conflict. We have a lot of material, stories and scenarios to share on these topics!
I don’t relish having to repeatedly remind my children about boundaries and appropriate behaviour. It would be much easier if they just stopped playing Fortnite when I asked them to, it would be a real blessing to me if they took their football boots off in the hall, rather than scattering little black pieces of rubber from astro pitches all over my house, and I would love to have at least 1 week where I don’t have to answer a question about when Faith can get her ears pierced and when can she walk to the shops on her own.
There are times when I don’t necessarily ‘get along’ with my children. There are times when I need to challenge them. I spent a few minutes looking at the antonyms, or opposites, of peace. The thesaurus suggested words such as: agitation, worry, discord, disagreement, anxiety, frustration and difficulty. These are all words that I could sometimes use to describe my feelings and relationship with my kids. Paul – in his ‘telling it like it is’ style – goes even further. He recognises that when we feel like this we can often treat people as enemies. There are definitely parenting situations I have experienced that feel like we are going into battle!
But Paul turns this response right on its head. In his letter to the Thessalonians he says that in these situations, whilst we may find it difficult and feel the pressure, we are not to treat people like we are at war with them. Instead we are to care for them, love them, and to proclaim, declare, and work for peace, at all times and in all ways. If you want to know just how important “living in peace with each other” was for Paul, then go back and read 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 v 12-23. He says virtually the same thing in that letter too!
In today’s society we can find it hard to bring a challenge to others in terms of their behaviour or attitude. We might worry that people will be offended. Perhaps we have the opinion that people can do what they like as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. Maybe we think it’s not our place to comment, or that if we do it will break the peace.
How can proclaiming peace under pressure, whilst still being prepared to bring challenge, go hand in hand?
Returning to the analogy of parents and children may help us here.
A child who has clear boundaries knows that someone cares about them, what they do, and what happens to them. It helps a child to know that they are secure and safe – to experience peace for themselves, and with those around them. A child with no boundaries learns that no-one cares about them or what they do. They develop chaotic, unsettled lifestyles and behaviours. They do not experience peace in their lives.
And so I challenge my children because I love them and I want them to experience the peace that comes from having good relationships, rather than agitation and bickering; I want them to know the peace that comes from having unity in a family, rather than constant frustrations and disagreements. I remind them of the boundaries because I want them to live life better – to live a life free of anxiety and worry, knowing that they are loved, to live a life of peace.
And sometimes I get this right and things go well; and other times I really don’t and it really doesn’t!
And that is why we need Jesus!
The only way to proclaim peace under pressure is to submit ourselves to Jesus – the Master of Peace – and to follow his example in relationships, even when it seems difficult.
Jesus didn’t avoid challenges, pretend that differences were not there, or think it best to just say nothing. But Jesus did show love and care to others at all times and in all ways. Even on the cross, He proclaimed peace under pressure. He showed us the perfect way to live with others and build communities of faith.
Only when Jesus is truly at the heart of our relationships, truly amongst us, will we experience the gift of peace that he promised us. The gift of peace will encourage us and strengthen us to show love and care to others at all times and in all ways. Only with Jesus will we be able to build communities where peace is proclaimed under pressure.
Dear Jesus, thank you that you promise us the gift of peace. We ask that you would give us this gift today, as we deal with difficulties in relationships or situations that we need to challenge. Help us to always be the ones who work to build community and proclaim peace under pressure. Amen.
READING: 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.