You all know me. Of course there’s one part of this chapter that made me squirm. I don’t particularly like it. It’s not in vogue right now, it’s not a popular belief, it’s not something that is very popular.
It is this:
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
To which we have all asked:
What about the tribes that never get to hear?
What about the buddhist monk that fell into a crevice and died without knowing?
What about the millions of Jewish people murdered in the holocaust?
None of the answers given to me growing up satisfied my heart for justice. It just doesn’t feel just to punish people based on where they were born or on the availability of missionaries.
If I was born in India, I would likely be Hindu.
If I was born in Japan, I would likely be a Buddhist.
I was born in America, so I was likely born into a Christian home (which I was).
So, did I dodge the judgement of God because of something I had nothing to do with?
Here’s the deal though. When I pulled this verse out of it’s chapter and book it became this horrifying theological conundrum.
When I read the chapter I realized that Paul isn’t writing about a monk, a Japanese infant, or a villager in the rain forest.
He is writing to a church that is being persecuted by those who have heard the gospel and rejected it, and are now violent against the church. They are being tormented.
Paul is directing this church to God’s justice, so that they don’t feel the need to take justice in their own hands.
Paul writes this verse so that they don’t become vengeful and violent. Paul writes this verse so that this church can continue on without prejudice and bitterness.
He writes to tell them to leave the punishing to God, to trust in His justice and to wait until the day of judgement.
Our temptation is to bring the day of judgement to this day. To punish and meet violence with violence and evil with evil.
The church has to let God do that. It isn’t our role. it isn’t our place.
Their place was to trust, be persecuted, and leave all vengeance to God.
One Day, Paul says, God will punish those who are punishing you. You can trust that though you don’t see justice now, there will be justice one day.
So keep going.
Don’t lose heart.
There’s justice coming.
Don’t take revenge in your own hands.
Wow, Paul writes so that they don’t judge.
We read it so that we CAN judge.
So, is someone hurting you? Is someone tormenting you? Do you feel like there is no justice for those who have wronged you?
The temptation is to take justice in your own hands. To hurt those who hurt you. To punish those who punish you.
Don’t do that.
One day God will judge and he’s better at it. One day he will set it all straight. Wait, persevere and trust.