… we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us …
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (Verses 7-8, 11-12)
There is such tenderness in this passage. Clearly Paul had bonded deeply with these Thessalonian believers, even though the time they’d spent together seems to have been very brief (Acts 17:1-10).
He bonded, just like Mom and Dad with their kids. At least, that’s how he himself puts it. Paul says he responded “like a mother caring for her little children”, and then further, “we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children.”This is tender indeed.
Paul was actually there when these Thessalonians were birthed into the kingdom. They’d heard the good news of Jesus Christ through his preaching and had believed, receiving the gift of salvation. What joy to experience those new births, one after another. I remember the physical births of each of our four children distinctly – how could I forget? Each was entirely memorable, so joy-filled. Even the momentary trauma accompanying the birth of our second child, so quickly turned the corner into relief and joy. (I guarantee my wife remembers those births more precisely yet!)
Paul experienced all of it, again and again. He knew from his own experience on the Road to Damascus, the miracle of new birth. He’d seen the same unexpected deliverance into life in the Thessalonians. And he loved them in the midst of it –cared for them deeply. He wasn’t just a preacher or theologian or expositor of truth. He couldn’t just lay down truth, black and white, on the surface of the page – no, he plunged in at depth into the full colour of relationship. He cared genuinely and passionately for the real people being touched by good news in Jesus. Indeed he was delighted to share life with them, embracing them in the unrelenting reality of feet-on-the-ground experience. Just like a mother. Loving them because they were bonded at heart.
Do I go there? Do I throw myself into the unrestrained love and delight that a mother feels towards her children? Do I give myself in this way to brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul did. Do I?
But Paul went further also. He lifted up his sights, looking forward. While extending a mother’s unconditional love to the Thessalonians, embracing them right where they were, he also passionately urged them on with a father’s caring determination, eager for them to press into the greater fulness in store for them. He had clear sightedness to see where their journey was leading. He didn’t want them to stay put. He wanted them to step lively, walking in a manner worthy of the calling God had placed on their lives.
Do I go there? Do I lift my sights beyond the moment, looking into the glory of God’s greater purposes for those around me? Do I long for sisters and brothers in Christ to press on, to not get stuck, to step up into more of the kingdom, more of the glory, more Christlikeness? Paul did. Do I?
To these questions I can only answer: I have so much further to go. So much more heart to extend. So much more passion to bestow. So much more encouragement to give.
O Lord, help me. With the time you’ve given me, give me a mother’s heart – give me a father’s determination. O Lord.
How about you?
Reflect: Who is the Lord calling you to reach out to today with this caring, sharing, encouraging, exhorting love? What step will you take to do it?