We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children . . . For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you . . . 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
Over the years, I’ve met several families in our community who’ve taken foster children into their home in an effort to provide a stable, loving environment. That kind of sacrifice has always amazed me. I love my own kids and I’d do anything for them. If you asked me to make the same kind of commitment for a stranger though, I’d hesitate. I can’t just go around loving everyone like I love my own kids, right?
In today’s passage, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he had once treated them as his own children, nurturing like a mother and encouraging like a father. These were not his biologic children, but in discipling them, Paul became a foster parent, loving them as his own. Paul sacrificed of himself, seeking the Thessalonian’s spiritual welfare because God asked him to do so. In obeying God, Paul emptied himself for the good of others – just as parents do for their children.
This is the kind of love God asks us to show each other. Not everyone wants or needs our nurturing, love, and encouragement, but there are plenty around us who do. The problem, I think, is that a lot of us simply don’t know where to start.
I’ve been there. I’ve had times in my life where I wanted to be charitable, but I simply didn’t know where to begin. No one I knew really appeared to need help. Now, it’s easy to find those in need. Just yesterday, we had an AA meeting in jail, where a group of us met to seek faith and recovery. In facilitating that meeting, I’m able to show those men the love that God has shown me. Like in Paul’s parenting metaphor, I’m able to nurture and encourage those in need.
I can look back to times when I simply didn’t have opportunities like that, but I can also see that in those times, I just wasn’t really seeking the opportunity. For most of my life, I’ve simply been too self-absorbed to love others the way God asks. In recovery though, having been transformed by God’s love, I now have a genuine desire to share that love with others. When I’m honestly looking, those in need are easy to find.
There are always those around us who are going through tough times. Are we willing to involve ourselves? Are we willing to love others as our own? That’s what God is asking of us and if we claim to follow him, we must obey.