“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich.
Θλῖψις (thlipsis, say that three times fast) is not a common word in Greek literature. It shows up in medical writing as a term for physical pressure, before it is used to describe metaphorical “pressures,” or “oppressions.” In a treatise linked to the philosopher Aristotle and his school (the “Problems”), for example, the author explains how the application of “pressure” (θλῖψις) causes bruising and swelling.
Discomfort. Inconvenience. Awkwardness. We try to minimize these feelings as a church. We want all who join our community to feel at ease and welcome. But, as of late, we have all been struggling under an unrelenting pressure: masks are uncomfortable; maintaining social distance is inconvenient; enforcing new rules is awkward. We see other faith communities making different decisions and wonder if we’re getting it right. Welcome to the reality of living in a time of persecution, or what John calls Θλῖψις, thlipsis. Now, let’s not leap to the more gory stories of martyrdom. For many if not most of the Christians receiving John’s letter, the concern was less about being tossed to the lions tomorrow and more about the daily grind of hardship and uncertainty. To follow Jesus meant to refuse to participate in the worship of other gods. As a result, the early Christians were outsiders in their own culture where worship of the Roman emperor and other deities was part of doing business. Christians suffered economically and socially, while living under the real threat of being brought to trial for their faith. Day after day they had to deal with unrelenting pressure, discomfort, and anxiety; Θλῖψις. For John, however, Θλῖψις is not just hardship but also an opportunity to witness to the gospel. Patient endurance under daily discomfort and pressure, proclaims the gospel, then and now as well.
Questions for Reflection
How have you experienced the good news or proclaimed it during this time of unrelenting pressure?
About the Blog
In this season of plague, flood, fire, hungry cats, and Advent, we invite you to reflect on the words (such clever words!) of the Prophet John in the book of Revelation.
Perhaps you have encountered the #Liturgisaur on Instagram or Facebook. He is a small, green, pants wearing, one armed dinosaur who makes the rounds in Gladwin County and beyond, highlighting the various ministries of Christ the King Lutheran Church.