. . . We ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
Though I was first exposed to opiates after a surgery in medical school, I didn’t have a lot of access at that time. That changed when I entered residency at the same time that a new pain medication entered the market, of which we had a box in our sample closet. Meant to be a nonaddictive alternative to opioids, many physician experts preached that we should all be prescribing it due to its limited abuse potential.
I knew otherwise. From the first time I took it, I was hooked on the high. I craved it when I couldn’t get it and I consumed it whenever I could. It eventually controlled my life. So, when I heard those experts talk about how harmless the drug was, I should have objected. I wanted the drug though and I wanted it to be harmless. So, I clung to those false words of comfort, choosing to believe something I knew to be a lie, just because I wanted it to be true.
In today’s passage, Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be deceived by false news. He’d previously taught that Christ would one day return. There were apparently those who claimed that this had already happened – that they’d missed it. Paul insisted that the Thessalonians could know this wasn’t true because of certain evidence to the contrary. Paul warned them against being deceived by charlatans who would lead them astray with false teachings.
This is still a danger for us. In the information age, false news is more prevalent than ever and we’re prone to ingesting it. We often accept something that is unlikely to be true simply because we want it to be true. When something critical is suggested about our political opponents, we assume it’s accurate. When it’s said about our side, we don’t believe it. When there’s a study that supports our view of the Covid pandemic, we accept it. When it says the opposite, we discard it. When something evil is said about someone we don’t like, we embrace it. Often, we believe a thing not based on evidence, but rather on our preference. If we want it to be true, we’re far more likely to believe that it is.
Paul warned us not to be taken in by fake news though. He said that we must use our minds, examining the evidence. We must seek truth and we must be honest about our own bias. Our preference is a terrible guide to what’s real and what’s not. We must believe a thing because it’s true, not simply because we want it to be.