There’s an old French proverb that states, “He who is near the church is often far from God.”
The church can seem like a very harsh and uncaring place. Church people can seem judgmental and hypocritical. Empathy and authenticity sometimes just don’t seem to be found in great abundance.
Even 2000 years ago, the apostle Paul knew how important it was for the church to demonstrate compassion, offer encouragement, and extend care and comfort to people. He knew how critical it was for Christ-followers to meet people where they’re at.
It was pure joy for Paul to share the gospel. But as he tells the Thessalonians, he also found great joy in sharing more than the gospel — in sharing his very life with them.
He worked day and night to support himself so he could selflessly teach people about Jesus, without needing their financial support. He lived a life that showed the Thessalonians step-by-step how a life with God is lived — an unselfish, righteous and pure life.
In this way, when the Thessalonians got near to Paul, they got a good picture of who Jesus is. They got a good picture of what the church is meant to be, too.
The good news about Jesus’ forgiveness. The love of Jesus reflected in actions. The power of Jesus for life-change. Hope. Encouragement. Comfort. And the challenge to grow in faith and obedience. That’s what the Thessalonians witnessed and received.
So when they got near the church, they also drew near to God.
“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 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” (1 Thessalonians 2:7b-12, NIV).
Our Bible reading for Friday, October 9, is Jeremiah 18:1 – 20:18, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 – 2:16 and Psalm 119:1-8.
Lord, help me to love others as you first loved me. I ask you to strengthen me to follow the example of the apostle Paul, to share the gospel with those around me, and to sacrificially share myself as well.
Header image based on "St. Mary's, Stamford" by DncnH, CC By 2.0