1 Thessalonians 3:6-12 (NIV)
Timothy’s Encouraging Report
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
The verses above just struck me as I was reading this morning. This is a letter from Paul, along with his Christian brothers Silas and Timothy. It was written about A.D. 51. The purpose of the letter was simple encouragement and an expression of love in Christ for the brethren in the city, (and to Christians of all ages).
As commentators tell it, Paul’s actual visit to the Thessalonians was cut shorter than he would have liked. This left a number of recent converts from paganism without a nurturing “leader” for support in the midst of persecution from outside sources.
They go on to say Paul wanted to provide instruction on Christian living, (4:1-8), to urge some not to neglect working each day, (4:11-12) and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ’s second coming, (4:13-18).
However, as I see it, there is more to these verses than that. As we can see in reading these words, Paul had a very deep affection in the Lord for these people, as he did for all brothers and sisters in the church. One could certainly say he had the kind of fellowship bond with members of “the Way” (the church) which we should all have even today.
Sadly, this kind of bonding in churches today seems to be very limited, even missing completely in some. Because of this, some have even decided to leave meeting in worship services altogether. No matter the type of church we may be talking about, attendance is down across the board! And the lack of warm, caring fellowship is partly to blame, without a doubt.
My friends this is not right. As we should know, our coming together each Sunday is meant to not only to strengthen our collective spiritual bond, but also lead us to worship God with a happier heart and a deeper, more fruitful service.
Obviously, this cannot be done if we are staying home avoiding others in the church. In fact, “dodging” church services is the exact opposite experience we are to have among our fellow believers, and it is certainly disappointing to our Lord!
Take note of the words of Paul to the church in this passage. Imagine Him speaking to our own church group. Could he say we are showing devotion and love towards one another? Would he long to come and spend time with our church?
What if the Lord Himself walked through our church doors next Sunday? Would He be pleased with what type of fellowship He finds there?
Therefore, let us make every effort to be loving, accepting, and understanding of the people we go to church with. Be the “bigger Christian” if a situation calls for it. Avoid petty arguments. Don’t be so sensitive about every little thing.
Love the people in your church the way you are loved in Christ Jesus. Share with them, care for them, look for ways to be of more service to them, for this is the desire Christ Jesus has for His church!
Are we not called to have the same attitude of unconditional affection for all people as Christ Jesus had for us? Did He not give up His very life for all of us, even when He knows some will go to their grave rejecting and cursing His name!
If our Lord can love like this, can we not find it in ourselves to attend church and “make nice” with those who share our beliefs in a risen Savior? I now call everyone to think on and meditate on this question of fellowship in the church…
- “The NIV Study Bible, copyright 1995, Zondervan, pg. 1822”