Friday, August 15, 2014

Both father and mother - 1st Thessalonians 2:7-12

"But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." (1st Thessalonians 2:7-12)
It is interesting that Paul characterizes his ministry among the Thessalonians as being both a mother and a father. On the one had he was loving, caring, nurturing, and protecting as a mother, while at the same time he was exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them into the things of God like a father. Paul was not a one dimensional man, he could be both a father and a mother; both caring and exhorting at the same time. Some saw this as weakness. "Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! ... For they say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.'" (2 Corinthians 10:1, 10) Paul's gentleness and meekness was not weakness, for he knew how to be strong and bold when needed, but it was just another side of God's love.

Just as Paul was mother and father, so is our Heavenly Father. It is written that, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) God created mankind both male and female and He created them in His own image. Therefore, we understand that God is both male and female, both father and mother, both loving and imploring. God is not one dimensional and neither are we, or least we should not be. As we grow in Christ so aught we to grow in expressing the whole of God's love, both father and mother.

We also understand how Paul was different from the other charlatans of his day. Paul was not out to sell something, he was not maneuvering to gain something from the Thessalonians, he was not after power, status, control, or even a following. Paul was delivering a message to the Thessalonians, a message from God and a message he received directly from God, and in the process he was willing to expend all he had and even to impart his very life to them if needed. Paul and his fellow workers worked with their own hands that the Gospel might remain with the Thessalonians without charge and with no conditional attachments. Paul was not afraid of the cost of his labors and understood that they were his to bear for the sake of others.

I have, on occasion, seen those who are willing to serve God as long as they can do it without cost. They are willing to serve as long as other pay the cost, fund their service, and underwrite their ministry. Theirs is a ministry of convenience, but the work of the Kingdom is not always convenient. We must come to the place where we are willing to serve even if it costs us, even if it is inconvenient, for this is not only the example of the Apostle but also the example of our Lord.

David Robison

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