Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus Christ clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (verses 11-13)
Again, the tender compassion of Paul spills out of this passage. He’s been yearning to know how these new-believing Thessalonians are doing. He can picture each one. He cares for them deeply. He’s sent Timothy to check-in with them, wondering how they’re doing, hoping they’re standing firm in faith, but concerned lest they may have fallen away into temptation. Eagerly, he’s been awaiting a response. He can hardly stand it.
Whew! Timothy has now returned and all’s well. The Thessalonians have stood firm, even in the midst of persecution. Faith and love are alive and thriving. Paul rejoices. And rejoicing spills over into petition and benediction.
“Now may our God … May the Lord ... May he …” Paul turns to the Lord with these strong requests, each chockablock full of yearning and hope.
The first is very human. Paul wants to see them all again. So he prays, beseeching Father and Son that it may be so. Of course he has in mind that he will teach them (as an apostle should) and strengthen them in faith (as any church-planter would desire). But I think at heart he simply wants to see them. To enter more fully into relationship. To enjoy the friendship and family connection that has been so deeply (eternally) established in the Lord.
What a gift. Relationship within the Body of Christ is ours, too.
Knowing his own love for them so well, Paul then prays that the Thessalonians’ love might increase to that same capacity. May it be topped up to the full, indeed overflowing. Paul has in mind that this love would be tangibly expressed by each to the other within the Thessalonian church. If you’ve had any experience at all in a local church, you know just how crucial this prayer is. You know it’s not something to take for granted. It is all too easy to completely miss the mark when it comes to loving one another. So many things so easily get in the way – disagreements, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, selfish perspective, anger, jealousy, and on and on and on. How important to implore the Lord for the continual outpouring of his love, keeping our own supply topped up to overflowing. And not just within the church body, either. This love is meant to spill forth “for everyone else”, too. That’s a huge prayer request. Indeed.
What a challenge – to press into the full expression of Christ’s love, in all its strength and costly sacrifice.
Finally, Paul looks to the future and prays for the church to be holy and blameless on that great day when Jesus finally returns. What a prayer! It’s anchored in our great hope (Christ’s coming) and it’s fleshed out in a great miracle (our very lives holy and blameless).
What hope. May he do it.
May our God bind our hearts together. May he make our love increase. May he strengthen us in Christlikeness. To his honour and glory. Amen.
Reflect: Love is a great joy and a huge challenge. Where do you find that joy today? Where do you encounter challenge? Give thanks for the one and press into the other.