By Jane Williams
A Reading from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
9 You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. 11As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul commends the Christian community in Thessalonica for being his “imitators.” Here in chapter 2, he reminds them of what they saw in him when he was with them, and so of what they are to continue to imitate.
They saw Paul’s courage (v. 2), which springs from the fact that he, like the great prophets before him, speaks what he has been given by God. Paul came to them as someone whose credentials have been approved by God, so that he spoke to them under authority, not for his own ends.
They saw that, although Paul was bold and courageous in his proclamation of the gospel, he was also gentle. He is not embarrassed to use breast-feeding imagery about his relationship with these new Christians, stressing the intimacy that is between them. The gospel is not something that can be passed on impersonally: Paul gives himself with the gospel.
They saw that Paul’s pattern of life with them was designed to ensure that he, like the gospel, came as a gift to them, not a burden. Paul worked to keep himself, seeing himself as a father providing for his children, not as a salesman.
Paul does not labor the point that this is how the Thessalonians must now live out what they have seen; they must be fearless in their defence of what God has entrusted to them; they must be gentle and willing to give of themselves, and they must know themselves privileged to be “fathers” to those who come to know Christ through their witness.
Paul’s words to these new Christians are full of love, trust, admiration and confidence. As we prepare our hearts to receive again God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ, Paul is not a bad example to follow.
Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St. Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Seoul (Korea), the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee
Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland & Labrador (Canada), the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Peddle
Church of St. Mark, Brooklyn, N.Y.