This morning I read 2 Thessalonians 2, and came across these verses (11-12) at the end of Paul’s paragraph about the return of Jesus:
For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
These aren’t popular words. You’ve probably not heard them in a sermon lately. But there they are. The first phrase echoes that disturbing story from 1 Kings 22, where the host of prophets announces victory to Ahab, but Micaiah prophesies that heaven has sent a deceiving spirit to confuse all their prophets. Ahab believes the prophets, and dies for it. The second phrase sets up a dynamic of belief–that somehow, belief in the truth is set in a proportional relationship to pleasure in wickedness. Maybe it’s a subtle pleasure–like the love for getting in the last word, or the quiet cruelty of punishing those you dislike, or an un-tamed tongue. Maybe it’s a more overt pleasure, like your personal wealth, your diet, or your sexual habits. Whatever the case may be, the message Paul communicates is clear: if you love your pleasure more than the truth, then you’re stuffed–even worse, you set yourself up for deception. God have mercy on us all.