14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.
Paul here is talking about the persecution of the Thessalonian church since they left. I believe he is trying to let them know they are not alone and that they are persevering just as the church in Judea is, comparing the two as if they are experiencing the same troubles.
I’d like to focus on the contrast in verse 15, not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men. I think this is an important point to note, especially for me and my past behavior of hostility and anger. It is important to recognize that hostility is not an action pleasing to God. Since Christ’s teaching was that of love for God and others, this makes sense.
In Paul’s next sentence, he explains that this hostility prevented them from sharing the Gospel to the Gentiles. Let’s look at this more personally. How does our own hostility prevent us from sharing the Gospel? First of all, the Gospel is not hostile. If it is shared in hostility, it will hinder the audience from being saved, will it not? Secondly, why do we get hostile in defending the Gospel? Certainly we take it seriously if we believe in it, but God doesn’t need or want us to be hostile about it. His directive of unconditional love surpasses this. This is all a concept I am trying to embody.
Verse 16 is interesting and I read it as “they will get what is coming to them.” I believe this is crucial because too often we see people who are just outright “bad people” yet they seemingly get rewarded for it. Paul’s point in this is that as they pile up the sins that they are not forgiven of, it will be returned to them in God’s wrath.
Our job is not to worry about someone’s constant sins, but to love others without judgment or animosity. As James said, we are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. I believe this is another approach to the same principle. We need to stick it out during the tough times, the persecution, even the doubting and insecurity, for our reward awaits us and we must stay focused on God, not the distractions.
Who are you hostile towards and how is that preventing the Gospel and the work God has called you to from being fulfilled?