Even So, Even More
Have you ever noticed that I Thessalonians is a lovely little epistle? Taking up a whopping three pages in my Bible, it's an encouraging but convicting snapshot of spiritual life for the Thessalonian believers who were, in some ways, pretty exemplary.
I've really enjoyed taking this book slow—tackling chapters a few verses at a time and trying to digest Paul's words as thoroughly as possible. One recurring theme keeps leaping out at me and makes me wish—just a little—that I could pay the Thessalonian church a visit.
They were, no doubt, a people of great love.
In I Thess. 1:2, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their "faithful work" and "loving deeds," both of which stem from their love for Jesus, made possible by Christ's love for them. The Thessalonians had a reputation; Paul can't say enough good things about their witness for Christ to the world around them, and maybe that's why he didn't feel the need to devote entire chapters to love or unity the way he does for others.
Here's what he does say:
"But we don't need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more." (I Thessalonians 4: 9-10).
A few things here. One, round of applause for the Thessalonian church. Y'all, these people weren't perfect, but they knew how to love. They had a reputation for love that had spread beyond their geographical area and left a mark on the wider early church. That is huge. It's monumental—because it's exactly where the modern church struggles. We're Ph. Ds at pointing fingers and telling each other who's right and who isn't... but we're kindergartners in love. The Thessalonians had their priorities straight.
But believe it or not, the thought that inspired this blog post is almost a contradictory point: despite their solid foundation in the realm of love, the Thessalonians were not allowed to graduate yet. Paul doesn't say, "Great job on the love, y'all, give yourselves a pat on the back and feel free to move on to something else. Maybe honesty or sloth?"
No, Paul says, "Even so . . . love them even more."
Even though they were on the right track, they had more to do. There is always more love that can be poured out on others. There are always more needs that our love can fill. There is always a bottomless supply of love from which we can draw to meet those needs—because God's love is bottomless and He is the source. As Paul points out, God Himself is the one who teaches us to love, and He will equip us with everything we need to grow and grow and grow in this area.
The Thessalonians weren't content with a Bachelor's Degree in Love. They weren't even content with a Master's. I have every confidence that the Thessalonians continued to grow in this area long after Paul's epistle was written, and though the Thessalonian church may no longer exist, the Body of Christ still does.
Maybe, like me, you know you've got work to do in the love department. Maybe, like the Thessalonians, you're doing pretty well. Either way, even so, let's get out there and love our fellow humans even more.