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.
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.