6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:6-8
Have you ever tried to spend 36 hours alone with God? Most days I feel like I’m trying to snatch moments with Him, but earlier this summer circumstances led me to be alone with the Lord for a stretch of 36 hours, and it was hard. I floundered and didn’t know what to do with myself. It was almost as if a stranger and I were forced together in this tiny cabin and we didn’t know how to interact. Luckily, I realized we knew each other, I had just forgotten how to communicate with my Creator, and we spent some really sweet time together.
During that time, I was able to spend time in 1Thessalonians and, as often happens with the Bible, though I had studied this book before, the Lord opened my eyes to plenty of new things.
Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians after being forced from Thessaloniki to Athens because of persecution. He did not get to spend the amount of time he wished with the Thessalonians and sent Timothy back to be with them. This is the letter he wrote back to the church after Timothy had given his report to Paul, having caught back up with him. (Complicated right?)
Paul speaks of his ministry in Thessaloniki in chapter 2. He reminds the church that though Paul and Silas had biblical authority, they had come to foster and help the fledgling church to grow. It wasn’t for their glory that they came, it was for the Lord’s glory. They came to this place to help and serve and take care of the Thessalonian church. They gave of themselves and were gentle, they worked to support themselves (v 9), they not only preached the Truth of the Gospel, but gave of themselves personally because of their love for these people.
How often do we view our churches in this way? How often do we sacrificially give of ourselves without caution to our congregations? Either in ministry or as an attender, many of us close ourselves from making the step of viewing our church family as family.
All too often I find myself willing to give my time, my thoughts, my prayers, but holding myself back, guarding my heart. There are many reasons I suppose: the possibility of getting hurt, breaking a relationship, or feeling responsible for one more thing. It’s a hardening of my heart that keeps me from giving fully of myself to my ministry. It’s hard and draining to lean in and really know and possibly be known.
Paul here calls us to be better by his example, showing us how to do ministry, how to treat each other like a family. He didn’t just teach, he got in the trenches and got dirty. Surely his feelings got hurt; we know he was chased from multiple cities in Greece (and other places) for being all in for the Gospel of Jesus that he proclaimed, that we still proclaim today. Let’s remember his dedication and his openness the next time we have the option between putting up a wall or opening our hearts to someone who needs the love of Jesus.
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