On Tuesday night we discussed 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12,
9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,
12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
The entire conversation we had on Tuesday night revolved around one question that I asked based out of verse nine. The question was, “What are some ways God teaches us to love one another?” We noted that Paul was armed with only the Old Testament and an oral story of the suffering and risen Jesus when he entered the Greek city of Thessalonica. After he spent a relatively short period of time with them, he was forced to leave because of persecution, and yet he continued to hear stories of the fledgling church’s love for one another as he traveled on to Berea, and then to Athens, as it is from there that he wrote this letter.
Some of the answers to this question are as follows: First the Gospel shows us the deep love God has for His fallen creations. As the scripture says,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
~ John 3:16,17 ~
The love of God demonstrated in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ has a profound depth, especially when compared to the magnitude of the sinfulness of our depraved nature.
Second, the Gospel shows us how we are to live as human beings in this fallen world toward other human beings. Christ, as God, shows us God’s love, but Christ as man demonstrates for us the kind of life that pleases the Father. His love for those around Him, especially the broken teaches us how we are to love. His willingness to touch the untouchable and forgive the unforgivable, coupled with His patient forbearance of the faults and brokenness of the general population of the “ordinary men” He came in contact with is incredible when compared to the ease at which we both ignore the plights of the weak and judge the hearts of others.
Third, and this is really an outworking of the knowledge of the first two but it must stand alone as a way God teaches us to love one another, and that is this, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5b) we then begin to act out in tangible ways the Gospel we have heard and believed. That is, by the power of the Spirit we begin to embody the message we believe and proclaim. It is the embodiment of the message, by the founder of our Faith, Jesus, that makes Him the one one we want to follow with our whole life. It is the embodiment of the message, Paul having come from Philippi having been beaten and imprisoned there, yet still sharing a vibrant faith, unashamedly proclaiming and living out the Gospel of Christ. It is a broken and scarred Paul that will write,
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves”.
~ 1 Thess 2:7,8 ~
Alan Hirsch reminds us in his book, “Forgotten Ways” that it is “because the apostles were essentially the custodians of the DNA of God’s people, the embodiment of the gospel had to be observed as living integrity in their message to have any lasting effect. It is this consistency between message and messenger that authenticated the apostolic message and cultivated receptivity in the hearers.”
~ from “The Forgotten Ways” pg 116 ~
Following the example of the love and sacrifice of Jesus, and then Paul, Jason, one of the few named disciples in Thessalonica, immediately endures arrest and persecution for the Gospel’s sake. (see Acts 17) I am sure that Jason’s story is one of those stories that is circulating through Macedonia as Paul writes.
As, Tom Chantavong so aptly put it on Tuesday, the Gospel story is to be a story told and lived. It is the living of the story, the demonstration of the love of God, that causes us to both grasp and demonstrate the Gospel’s full meaning. This is the major difference between being a disciple and one that intellectually accepts the tenets of Christianity. A disciple of Christ is one that believes and follows, a story-teller and a story-liver.
Solomon’s Porch is a community of disciples, therefore we are a community of story tellers, we are constantly to be reminding one another of the Gospel we believe. However, it is as important that we be a community of story-livers, for that is one of the chief ways we are “taught by God to love one another”. So let’s “do this more and more” as Paul via the Holy Spirit encourages. Remember, if we are to make disciples of the nations it is imperative that we first make disciples of one another. Otherwise we will just export a story told, and that falls far short of what God so desires and the world so desperately needs.