“When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” – 1 Thessalonians 5:3
There is lots of bad news in the appointed lessons for today. There is talk of a dreadful “Day of the Lord.” There are dire warnings of impending disaster.
When I started out in ministry I tended to avoid such difficult texts, the “hard parts” of scripture. After all, I reasoned, many people’s lives are hard enough without being too troubled in church. Reinhold Niebuhr once called this pastoral tendency to spare people bad news “tempering the wind to protect the shorn sheep.”
I came to realize that people don’t need protecting. They know that life is often difficult and has its own share of hard parts. And if sometimes the scriptures seem full of bad news we also live in a world that daily delivers us all sorts of bad news.
“Gospel” literally means “good news.” But in my own life I know that I have often only been able to hear God’s Good News in the midst of bad news. The Good News that God is real and loves us with an unsurpassed love may not seem very important when all our other news is good; when we have a decent paycheck, a roof over our heads and our health is good.
But in times of trouble the truth of the Gospel can break through to us and give comfort and hope in even the worst of times.
Our text today especially warns us against the voices of denial that say, “There is peace and security” when there is none. Faith can help us discern such false news and be ready to face bad news whenever it comes.
Whatever the news in our time, O God, let us never forget the Good News of your vast love for us in Jesus Christ.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.