But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
So what is the ordinary life of the church?
1. Pastoral Care
2. Personal Affection and concern
3. Proclamation of the Gospel
4. Perfecting the Gospel
1. Pastoral Care
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children,” Paul says. And then again, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.”There has been a lot said about pastoral care in the history of the sunday school lessons, and I’m not sure I have anything new to add to that archive. From my perspective, since most of us will never be pastors, thinking about that duty of pastoral care is at best a way for us to find things to pray about for the sake of our pastors. The job they have taken on is, as Paul says, labor and toil, working night and day.
But what Paul says here about the pastoral effort is interesting in its own right. It borrows from an Old Testament theme, which is the role of a mother and a father in the right upbringing, the right education and formation of a child into a responsible adult.
For example, it says in Proverbs 1:8-9, “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Or Prov 3:12, “the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Or Ps 113:9, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.”
What Paul is telling us about his care for these people in bringing them up in the faith is that he has not come at this work as a kind of career move. For him, it’s not a mere job. He is giving something to these people that is more personal than that. For him, it is literally not about the money since he worked for his own support in order to minister to them. It is instead about forming these people into something for God by informing them from a position greater than the role of a mere teacher. He did not simply step behind a pulpit or a rolling desk and preach to them. He invested something in them that can only be described by comparing it to parenting – how parents invest themselves in children so that these children will know more than just the facts. It recalls the charge in Deuteronomy 6: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
So rather than belabor the point here that our pastoral staff ought to love us as a mother loves us, or as a father loves us, or both since Paul says that’s what he did, let’s put it this on our prayer list. Let God bless our pastors with this kind of love for the people in their care at this church because this is a tall order. It’s a lot to ask it of them, but I think we are all better served, rather than reminding them that we are needy people, to instead pray for them for the sake of God giving them the depth and strength to do that for us -- when it is hard enough to do that for one’s own family every day.
Where I will belabor this point is on the other end of the love: Paul says he was able to do this for the Thessalonians “because you had become very dear to us.” “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, because you had become very dear to us.” Somehow these people were lovable people. And I think it’s easy to see how they did that if we see what Paul credits to them as a church under his shepherding:
• In v.1:3, they are said to have “works of faith and labors of love and steadfastness of hope”
• In v.1:6 “you became imitators of us” and “received the word with joy even in affliction”
• In v.1:7 they became and example to everyone in the region
• In v. 1:9, they turned away from idols, and gave up their old way of life for something new
In short, while Paul devoted himself to loving them as a pastor, as a father and a mother, these were people who took Paul’s teaching to heart. They lived as if what Paul was teaching them was true, and more important than the priorities they had before they met him. Paul could love them because they were more than just good students: they demonstrated the love which they received.