Paul and Silas had only a few times to teach in Thessalonica before they were forced to leave. And after they left, the early Church there came under great persecution, thus Paul feared he had not had enough time to firmly ground them in the Gospel…so he sent Timothy to complete the work he had started. In this letter, Timothy has returned with the good news of the Believer’s faith and love and Paul is praising God for it. Earlier in this letter Paul wrote, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 1:3) What Paul was talking about here is the agape love we have for each other is an expression of our faith, and hopefully both our love and faith are growing and increasing together each day.
Paul’s letter to the Church in Thessalonica encouraged them to love each other by following the example of Jesus. For the past year we have been part of a brand new Church plant…bringing people together from several Churches to form a new one. And today was our second service, with many new faces among us. So as I look at this verse, I’m reminded that for the past six months we’ve bonded together as a small group, but now the time has come that we must turn ourselves from our tight circle to welcome those coming in through the doors. For the agape love of Jesus can only be demonstrated by His Believers when we love others. And we can only be His hands and feet when our caring shows.
You’ve been around them too…people who are all talk and no action. They may speak eloquently and have great ideas…but they lack followup and dedication to actually get the work done. They make a lot of noise, but that’s all. Paul is showing us here that it’s the love of Christ in our hearts that make the difference between just making noise and changing the world for Him.
After pondering this verse, an old 1960’s praise song came to mind. It’s premise comes from John 13:34-35, where Jesus is giving the command to love one another, “for by this all men will know that you are My disciples.” The title of the song is, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” So my question to you today is… does the world know you by the love you share with the lost? And does the world recognize your Church Body for its love for those outside the four walls of the sanctuary? We are to love one another, but we are to also take that love out to reach the unsaved.
It’s easy to love those we have a natural affinity for. It’s not hard at all to love our family and those close to us. Nor is it difficult to love those we’re naturally attracted to. But what about those who are like sandpaper against our soul? What about the unlovely of the world…the disagreeable, repugnant, and unpleasant people who God has called us to love regardless? For Jesus didn’t add any exceptions when He told us to, “Love one another.” But when we have the love of God…the unconditional, Agape, love within, we are able to look beyond the exterior and love the unlovely.
Do you realize just how much God loves you? He’s not stingy or tight-fisted with His compassion towards you. Nor does His unconditional love depend on how good you are any peculiar day …or how many “works” you have on your mental score-sheet. God’s grace and love towards you is generous, abundant, and more than enough to cover anything that happens to you today.
The word that stands out in this Scripture to me is the word always…repeated four times in this short sentence. So, what does always really mean? Well, according to Webster, it means, at all times. Thus, this verse shows us what true unselfish love should look like. It’s the type of love that is constantly looking for the good in people…believing in and expecting for the very best. It’s a love that will bear up under a load of misery, adversity, persecution, and provocation with faith, hope, and a smile…thinking of others first. And just like the love of Christ, unselfish love never fails, and never gives up on others.
If you want to see what a person is truly made of…put them in a long line, in the hot sun, waiting for something that may or may not arrive on time. That’s when frustration and impatience boils over into selfish love. This verse is interesting in that all it speaks of are examples of selfish love…of self-centered, looking out for #1 love that only thinks of itself. We all have the opportunity daily to choose what type of love we’ll portray to the world…the love of Christ or the selfish love of the world. And as Believers, we are to be an example of Christ’s love to others…unfortunately, whether we’re a good example or a bad one.
For the next few days I’m going to writing on the familiar verses in the 13th Chapter of I Corinthians, also known as the Love Chapter. These verses tell us what Christian love should look like. But even more importantly, they tell us what selfish self-centered love looks like. The love Jesus taught of was an unconditional agape love…love that is compassionate, and understanding…refusing to retaliate or repay evil with evil. But the love the world teaches of is egotistical, self-absorbed, and arrogant….refusing to put others first. These verses will look at both types of love…selfish and unselfish, and their impact on the world.
It goes on to tell us in Psalm 36:5-6, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep.” I have the opportunity today to be “out in the middle of no where” in North Dakota. Sitting here looking at the massive expanse of horizon, it seems like you can see forever. But this vastness around me can in no way compare to the width and breadth of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. For His mercy for us is indefinite, brought into existence before the very beginning of time by the God of eternity…a ever-lasting and forever God.