Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1: 1-4
“Grace and peace to you” is how Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonians. In our churches, during our worship services, many of our congregations practice something similar in our times of greeting or the passing of the peace. We are reminded, through these practices, of our love and fellowship with each other and with Christ.
At the time Paul wrote this letter, the church was growing. But is was also facing persecution and abuse from the much larger, non-Christian, segment of Thessaloniki. Hence, Paul’s words of encouragement to persevere. Persecution and abuse may not be the words we would use today, but there is definite conflict with the larger society outside the church. The messages of the world and the messages of the church often run head-on into each other. At times this means saying “No!” to or disagreeing with the messages of the world. Inadvertently, at times this will draw negative attention and sometimes it will draw conflict.
We usually end our services by sending forth the congregation with a blessing of peace and some words of encouragement as we go back out into the world. Often these words include reminders to share it bring Christ’s love out there with us. As we bring our faith out into the world, God’s peace is a good thing to bring along. As we ourselves face trial or persecution, it is a good thing to have along. As we enter alongside another struggling in life, it is a good thing to share.
Paul notes that the church is growing. A church in the midst of a culture that was largely non-Christian is growing. It was growing because the believers were living out their faith in the world outside the walls of their church. The same principle works today. Christ’s love is attractional. It draws us in. It will draw others in as well. So go forth in peace, being the light and love of Jesus Christ in a broken world. Go forth to love and serve the Lord.