I have a confession… I struggle with our 2nd Thessalonians text.
I struggle particularly with the “those who do not work, should not eat”.
But, it is not rooted in a far too often misrepresentation of my generation, the millennials, lacking in work ethic.
It is also not rooted in a gracious acceptance of persons who abuse the charity and generosity of others.
It is, however, rooted in the reinforcement of a non-Christ- like sentiment and an American myth…. that we can simply pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
And I state this as one who experienced and witnessed my mother struggle, fight, and improve our financial standing. But it also taught me, if you are in a position to help another, you do it.
The reality is that vulnerable persons are not always vulnerable due to their lack of work ethic, poor choices, or because they are a sinner outside of God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and LOVE.
The reality is that vulnerable persons are often survivors who have (and continue) to be victimized by our broken, messy, and sinful world rich in the sins of oppression and injustice.
These survivors are often victimized for their racial, ethnic, cultural, national, socio-economic status, and biological sex which are circumstances of their birth.
These survivors are often victimized for their “counter-cultural” gender identity, relationship status, sexuality, and religious or non-religious affiliation.
These survivors are often struggling under the burden of under-employment, student loan debt, or medical expenses. In fact, educational loans and medical expenses are the top reasons for bankruptcy in the United States of America.
These survivors are often victimized due to lack of a support system or family, who are able to teach them the necessary skills for life and good decision-making, understanding consequences of their actions (for better and ill).
These survivors are often victimized by trauma survived, whether physical, sexual, emotional, mental, or spiritual.
Our world is broken, messy, and sinful.
In our world, it may seem that those who benefit the most do not reflect Christ is word, but especially in deed.
The corrupt seem to flourish in power, authority, and resources on the backs of these most vulnerable. Their gains are often directly through oppression and injustice.
Again, our world is broken, messy, and sinful.
So, how can a vulnerable person lift themselves by their own boot straps with those in power, authority, and with the needed resources standing on their backs… in general, they cannot.
Malachi warns us that a day is coming, when all the evildoers, the wickedness, the oppression, the injustice, the brokenness, the messiness, and the sin will cease to exist. It will be a new world, a new kingdom… the Kingdom of God.
Jesus warns us to “stay awake” and basically, it will be worse before it will be better…
again, THIS is the ‘good news of our Lord’.
BUT, such a challenge of standing firm against oppression and injustice can cause us to become weary, which 2nd Thessalonians does encourage us to “never grow weary in doing what is right”.
I pondered this on Thursday, which is “Thursdays in Black”. It is an joint effort of the World Council of Churches, including the ELCA to stand against violence, not limited to but specifically rape and gender-based violence. It would and will be easy to grow weary in this effort.
So, we have two options…
One. Sit back. Watch us, humans, destroy ourselves and the world hoping it will speed up the second-coming.
Two. We can learn from Jesus, who spent time with the vulnerable and the “least of these” offering them food, but also a better way and hope in the future to come. Often adopting these vulnerable as brothers, sisters, and disciples.
We can encourage, support, and embolden one another to live into and live out our Baptismal vocations and commitments to:
- Proclaim Christ in word, but especially in deed;
- Continually seeking justice;
- Always acting with compassion and mercy,
- while loving and serving all people… but especially the most vulnerable.
And thus, not awaiting the second-coming but actively seeking the Kingdom of God which is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled.
I invite you to chose the latter, seeking to heal our world for the sake of all people, the creation, and in Jesus’ name. Amen.