Editor’s note: We missed publishing this article by Jon last week. My bad. It deserves a good read and lots of sharing.
As we read the letters of the apostle Paul that we have we can get some insight into the love he had for other Christians as well as how he dealt with people. His first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica has many references to his feelings for them. Paul was only in Thessalonica a short time before he had to leave due to the uproar caused by the Jews (see Acts 17:1-10). You might think that his being there for such a short time would not allow him to establish strong relationships. His letter to them reveals otherwise.
“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 2:11-12 NIV)
I realise that the phrase “as a father deals with his own children” may bring differing mental pictures to us, depending on how our father dealt with us. Paul does explain what he meant: he encouraged, he comforted and strongly urged them to live their lives as God’s children. Notice that he was not ‘forcing’ them to conform to what he said, but that he appealed to them to live lives worthy of God. How did he do this? Notice the next verse.
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Paul appealed to them on the basis of God’s word. As Jews who were now Christians they knew the Jewish Scriptures – the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. They now knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The lives they lived were now to be lived as Christians, as those who followed the Messiah. Paul taught them, but what he taught was from God’s word. Notice that when those in Thessalonica heard Paul’s message they did not accept it as a human message but for what it really was: it was the word of God. They could see that what Paul was saying was what the Scriptures said.
Two lessons come to mind for us today. The first is this: we need to be sure that what we are teaching is God’s word. We are fortunate today in that we have easy access to the Scriptures, whether in printed form, through an app on our smart phones and tablets, or on a website. We are in such a privileged position!
But do we actually use what we have? Do we spend time each day reading, studying, and applying the truths we find recorded by the apostles and prophets so that we, too, can “live lives worthy of God”? Or do we think that our worship assemblies will give us all of God’s word that we need? Look at the example of the Thessalonians: they accepted the word of God and it was “at work in you who believe”. It can only be at work when we have made it a part of our lives.
The second lesson is this: how do we deal with other Christians? Do we try to force others to believe and act in exactly the way that we think they should? Or do we simply teach them God’s word? Coercion should not be found among Jesus’ disciples.
Let us follow the example we find in scripture and live “holy, righteous and blameless” lives among those who have believed (1 Thessalonians 2:10).
Readings for next week: Acts 27-28; 1 Thessalonians 1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3