In 1 Thessalonians chapter two, Paul uses two images of how the aposles came to the Thessalonains with the Gospel. First, he says they were “gengle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children”. Given the context, this was before and during the Thessalonians’ conversion. How often are our own approaches to both the unbelieving and the new converts like a nursing mother? How often is gentleness the character of our witness?
Just four verses later Paul says that “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, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”. Notice how the relationship changes. As the converts mature, the gentle mothering gives way to a stronger exhorting and encouraging. While the parental imagery remains, the relationship matures and changes as the convert matures.
Paul continues the familial imagery later in the book as he exhorts the Thessalonians to grow more and more in “brotherly love”. He seems to be driving home the idea of the believing family as on who helps, cares for, and cherishes the family found there. Indeed, he uses these different terms of family over 20 times in this short letter.
When you think of church, do you think of family or do you think of a weekly obligation? Are you taking steps to make it family-like? Are you gentle, exhorting, encouraging, and loving in turn and in their proper context?