Tuesday 6th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – Paul’s Example
1 Thessalonians 2:1 – 12
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
This is the relational gospel. Four decades ago, when I started out in youth work, this was the core text for ministry among unchurched young people. Here Paul demonstrates how fully he has embraced the way of Jesus, how deeply he understands that the medium and the message are one.
He shows us that we can only truly tell people the good news that God loves them by actually loving them ourselves. Our evangelism must be deeply rooted in love for God AND love for those we are called to reach out to. Otherwise we are just a sales force, with all the patter. The gospel is costly to those sharing it, free to those receiving it. The vulnerability of offering love can be very costly. Ask any parent, sibling or friend. Paul uses the imagery of the tender care of a breastfeeding mother, the fatherly nurture of character and life choices, the sibling relationships of living and working alongside each other to describe this love. It is the day-to-day intimacy of lives shared, living out the gospel in the most ordinary ways, that gives the message of new life in Christ real meaning.
God in Christ became human and came to live among us to be the way, the truth and the life. He did not seek praise, wealth, power. He never tricked anyone or took advantage. He spoke of loving like the forgiving father of a prodigal, or a mother hen keeping her chicks safe, and his words rang true because he lived out that love. If communication is famously only 7% verbal, then not surprisingly it is against our lives, and the quality of our relationships, that our words will be tested. Jesus shared his very self. Integrity and intimacy were his mission methods. They were Paul’s. They should be ours.
Jesus you lived a life poured out for others: You loved the unlovely and the loveless, You shared your very self, You invited all to share new life through you. Help us to step out in costly love: To reach out in love, To speak the truth in love, Sharing our very selves with all our brothers and sisters As we share your love and your life. Amen.
Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe community, Oxford.