I’ve been reading 1 Thessalonians these last few days, and there seems to be a recurring theme. Yep, you guessed it: Love.
Hardworking love: “In the presence of our God and Father, we never forget that your faith is active, your love is working hard, and your confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ is enduring” – 1 Thessalonians 1:3. As Paul prayed for the Christians in Thessalonica, he must have been encouraged to remember these things. Their faith was active (that could mean growing; spreading; flourishing), and their love was working hard. It takes hard work, because love is a fruit (rather than a gift) of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and fruit doesn’t come overnight; it’s a process.
Gentle love: “We were gentle when we were with you, like a mother taking care of her
children” – 1 Thessalonians 2:7. My heart goes out to you if you’re reading this and don’t have a good relationship with your mother. I’ve had my moments with mine over the last 31 years, but today I’m very blessed to be close to my mum. If I’ve got a problem and choose to talk about it with her, she is very gently supportive (and I usually get a hug). Can I encourage you, whether you have parents you’re close to or not, to go to God (the Father) and take some of that gentle love from Him?
Increasing love: “His mission was to strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that these troubles don’t disturb any of you. You know that we’re destined to suffer persecution” – 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3, and not only persecution, but other trials too. The devil wants to destroy us (John 10:10), so what’s the answer? “We also pray that the Lord will greatly increase your love for each other and for everyone else, just as we love you. Then He will strengthen you to be holy. Then you will be blameless in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all God’s holy people” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. I can almost imagine Paul getting excited here. We pray He’ll increase your love … and then … and then … But he had cause for excitement, because increasing love is the answer. That’ll conquer bitterness, anger, reluctance to forgive, and any other negative emotions we might have.
Showing love: The beginning of 1 Thessalonians 4 talks about how to show love – by keeping away from sex outside of marriage and learning to control our bodies in a holy, not a lustful, way (4:3-5). If you’ve got a modern translation, you’ll want to be careful about those verses. (I read one today that translated “control his own body” as “find a husband or wife”, and that’s not the same thing.) If ever you read something and you’re in doubt because it seems to contradict other passages of Scripture, take time to read it in a couple of other translations to get its proper meaning.
Wearing love: Paul has gone on to the subject now of the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes back to take Christians to be with Him. While Jesus was on earth, He talked a lot about being prepared for that Day. Paul does the same here when he tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (5:8). When Jesus returns, will He find our hearts full of faith and love, and our minds convinced that we’re one of those He’s come back for?