Sharing Our Own Selves
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, not are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. -1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (NIV) Read the whole chapter.
So in our text this morning from Thessalonians, Paul is sending a message to a church that he had established. A church that he had called to faith in spite of the fact that they were facing persecution. So the opening chapter of this letter is one in which he commends them and says, 'You're doing great. You've received that message. You're doing well.' And in chapter 2 he goes on to continue to explain a little bit about what his mission is, what his ministry is. So he tells them, 'You realize that me coming wasn't in vain because you're here. You're listening. You received that Good News.' He goes on to say what he was not about. He said, 'I didn't come with any expectation. I wasn't here to wow you and dazzle you and convince you of all this. I came because I cared. I came because I love you.' And that is to me the important part of his message that he is giving. It's one in which he tells them that, 'It's important to me. It matters to me. I'm invested.'
Now in public speaking, they talk about, and I've even heard the same thing apply to preaches, that you should be three things. This is attributed most often to Woodrow Wilson. That you should be brief. You should be brilliant. And then you should be gone. I'm pretty sure I can get at least one of those right this morning: be brief. Know why you're there. Keep it succinct. Keep it to the point. Be brilliant. Be clear. Be able to articulate. Make sure people understand what it is that you're communicating. Then sit down or leave and be gone. Now that might be alright for someone like Billy Graham or an evangelist whose job is to come in and disturb people's hearts and imaginations, to impress them, wow them, and then they move on to the next venue, the next town, the next wherever they're going.
But not so for pastoral ministry, the ministry that Paul was engaged in, or the ministry that we as a community of faith are engaged in. Because being gone implies that there's not a lasting relationship. That there's no investment. There's no commitment. I came, I did my wonderful presentation, I amazed you with my words. It was eloquent, it was understandable, you were inspired and then you'll never see me again. It may leave a memory. It may leave an impression but it doesn't give much to nurture, to sustain, to grow, to build upon like a relationship does.
So in the last two verses particularly of this morning's reading are crucial to my understanding of Paul and what was important to him. In the end of our reading, we heard him say, 'But we were gentle among you. Like a nurse tenderly caring for her own child.' The image that Paul is creating here is one of a mother nursing her child, an act of love, an act of compassion, an act of giving, of sustaining. Paul uses that image, that metaphor, and say, 'Look we came tenderly, caring, compassionate, desiring the best for you, desiring that you might know. And not just know, but grow, flourish, and thrive because of this Good News that we're sharing.'
This final verse that we heard this morning, he said, "So deeply do we care." He wants it to be clear: so deeply do we care that we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of our Lord, but also our own selves because you have become very dear to us. Paul wasn't just about passing upon knowledge. He wasn't coming to just fill their heads with all this information and say, 'There you go. That's everything you need to be a follower of Jesus' and then move on. That would have been the 'be gone' part of it if he had just stopped there. But Paul's having none of this 'be gone' part. Paul's saying, 'We're investing ourselves in you. We not only came to give you this amazing, this wonderful Good News about Jesus Christ. We're giving you our own selves. We're investing in a relationship. As if it wasn't clear enough in that first part where he said, "You're so dear to us", he ends by saying, "You have become so very dear to us." Paul cares. Paul wants the people that he is coming to know exactly how much of a difference this Good News can make.
So in many ways, there's this synergy I see between the sharing of the Gospel. The Gospel in and of itself is powerful, that's why we have Bibles that we study and read. That's why we reflect upon these words. But adding that to a relationship and suddenly it becomes more than either of those together. Because there are plenty of people who read this as simply a book, as literature and say, 'Okay, well that's nice.' But then there are people who put their own lives into this and not only show you these words but demonstrate them to you. A gentleman by the name of William Toms once said, "We should all be careful how we live because we may be the only Bible that some people read." Paul wanted his life, his example, his presence, and the relationship that he had with these people in Thessalonica to be the Bible that they read. He wanted that Good News to flow from his actions, from his words so that they not only heard it but experienced it firsthand in the way that he interacted with them.