our lives

We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.            1 Thessalonians 2:8

 

Reading the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians leaves me with one very clear impression:

 

I don’t love people very well.

 

I like people. I appreciate a lot of different things about people. I need people. But I don’t love them purely in the way I am loved by Christ.

 

Paul’s interest in the Thessalonians runs deep. His love is expressed in how he speaks of them, how he cares about them, how he pleads the best for them and from them. And he didn’t just come to share the idea of the Gospel. He came to live it out. He came and shared his very life with them.

 

Maybe it’s the church today and maybe it’s the culture—probably a little of both—but we live in a time when the tendency is to plug people into programs rather than invest in them as individuals. Admittedly, sharing our very lives requires a great deal more. And it’s quite possible that the problem is in part that we cannot share our lives with nearly as many as we can plug into a program. If we can draw people into a larger process that handles people as gathered collectives rather than individual souls we can handle a larger number.

 

In some ways the church must do this. It must reach out to larger numbers. Corporate worship gatherings are a great example of this. It’s necessary and important to gather together and be a part of the group. We need that. And it’s good stewardship of time and resources to make coordinated attempts to teach and share the gospel message of Jesus. But we also have to break the group down into individuals at times and connect by sharing life together.

 

The problem is, we can’t sit back and let the “professionals” do this. We can’t, as part of the Body, wait for the paid staff of the church to go out and share their lives with everyone. We have to start sharing our lives as well.

 

And this is why I’m realizing I don’t love people as much as should. I am trying to be a life sharer and I am trying to invest in others the way Paul speaks of here. And truth be told, I do have a heart that cries out to others and wants to connect with them. I do care about the individuals around me. I am interested in them.

 

But I also love my free time and my own interests and not being inconvenienced. I love these things and can allow them to pull me away from the people I am called to love. It’s not just a call to go and tell people Jesus loves them. We’re called to share the gospel, to make disciples, to teach them how to obey. We are called to teach others how to live as followers of Jesus. That’s not classroom work or textbook stuff. That’s every day, in the trenches, real life. It’s doing life together. It’s sharing struggles and frustrations. Talking through life changes, decision-making, heartaches, and dreams. It’s being in one another’s lives. This takes time and sacrifice. This means giving up and thinking about others.

 

We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.            1 Thessalonians 1:12

 

 How can I know what it looks like for you to live a life worthy of God if I don’t even know what your life is like outside of a Sunday morning or a group gathering? If we never sit around the table and talk, or walk together and joke; if we never see each other in times of struggle or frustration we just can’t even know what it means to plead specifically for one another to live lives God would find worthy.

 

For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

 

Share.

 

This is the call we should be hearing. Our lives need to be shared. God has shared his Kingdom and his glory. God has shared his Son, his life, his power. And we are called to share our lives.

 

We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.

 

And maybe this is the rub. To follow Jesus means my own life is not really my own. It’s his and he calls me to share it. To give it up and give it away. To surrender to the needs of others over the interests of self. This is what it is to love others well.

 

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6 thoughts on “our lives

  1. This last weekend I was taking a 7 year old and 8 year old to see their mother who is in jail and to see their dad who is in the hospital after being beaten while living on the street. As I was driving the 8 year old asked, “Do you love my daddy?” Then she asked, “Could he stay with you if he didn’t have a place to stay?” He has stayed here a few times but we have told him that he can’t any more. Then on Sunday the Grandfather of these children asked if I would pick him up for church. He is homeless staying in respite care because of injuries he sustained when he was mugged. When he got in the car the odor was strong and my thoughts were not loving thoughts.
    BB

    • Bonita,

      This is a powerful and very real way of communicating what I was thinking when I wrote this. Loving people well–giving of our whole lives to them–is so hard. And messy! There are so many “gray” areas as we try to figure out when loving them means giving to them and when really loving them means we stop giving certain things. Thanks for sharing this. And thanks for being so committed to loving people sacrificially.

      I also recently gave a ride to someone who filled my car with an odor that brought me to a place of very unloving thoughts. Who knew our sense of smell could be such a deterrant for loving people well?!

      Thanks for your words here.

  2. This is such a challenging area of our walk
    with God. I consider myself a giver, but I know
    I would think I was doing really good thing
    if I was in your shoes Bonita. But the challenge
    is to be humble whilst doing it.
    I had an opportunity many years ago, when
    a woman who left a home and obviously
    became disoriented and somehow found her
    way into our church. She had soiled herself
    so I know the feeling of that funny smell in the
    car situation. I am sure that is exactly what
    Jesus experienced many times over, and
    without reservation. Keep it up Bonita. This
    is the least of what we should be doing.
    I have a sneaking suspicion that we like
    our comforts and privacy too much.
    God bless all my sisters and brothers that
    do sacrifice their lives for others.
    Love to all the family from Australia.

    • “…the challenge is to be humble…” So true, Jenny! It can be so easy for us to take something like our helping of another and loving them well and let it puff us up and think highly of ourselves. It seems it’s a constant guard we must keep up against our own tendency to be self-impressed. thanks for the wise words.

      (great to have some of our Australian family reading here!)

  3. Bonita’s response has got me thinking. I’m just going to post my thought and questions here and hopefully someone can give me some insight.

    At what point do we stop giving? If we give too much we will end up resenting the person we are helping. If we spread ourselves too thin are we really helping? If we give to the point where we have to force ourselves and then go beyond that point, we are not really doing it out of love. We are doing it out of obligation. We are doing it because we have been told to, not because we want to and not out of love. Isn’t what is important to God what is in our hearts? If we push ourselves too much won’t we just end up hating what we are doing? Is it better to go up to the point where it is done out of love? Perhaps we should give a little more each time we help, gradually in order to slowly learn to love.

    I don’t mean to confuse anyone, I am just a little confused myself.

    • Yes, these are the questions, aren’t they? How far is far enough when it comes to giving of ourselves? Obviously the answer is different for each of us. I’m just wondering if there is value in givingbeyond what we are wanting to simply because it’s an act of obedience. of course, if we do so begrudgingly I think we could easily argue that god doesn’t really want that kind of “gift” after all.

      Slowly learning to love seems like a wise way to approach it. i am wondering if more than understanding the point to which we should or shouldn’t be giving we simply should be evaluating our hearts through out the process of giving from our selves. Maybe it’s this awareness that is most important and will continue to teach us how to love well and love more. I don’t know.

      These are good questions Costas. I will be thinking about them more. Thanks for bringing them to the surface for us.

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