Blest Be the Ties That Binds
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 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. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
St. Paul’s ministry as an apostle was not easy. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he lists some of the hardships that he had faced. He was scourged five times. He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned (not in the modern usage of the term). Three different times he was shipwrecked. Then he notes all of the ways and places he found himself in danger. Paul was a hardened man.
His life experiences make his language in his first letter to the Thessalonians a bit surprising. He warmly describes his ministry among them “like a nursing mother” and that he was “affectionately desirous” of them. What he is ultimately describing is the bond that the shepherd has for the flock with which he is entrusted. Paul’s ministry among them was gentle and sincere to a people who “had become very dear to us.”
Such a bond is wrought by the Holy Spirit of a people united in Christ and serving one another in love. Paul calls on God as a witness that He was not seeking His own gain or glory, but to declare the Gospel to them.
The affection that Paul writes of is actually not that surprising when one considers how he was torn away from the Thessalonians. Pastors felt that way when they were not able to visit members in hospitals and nursing homes. People who were very dear to them were unable to receive pastoral care in some cases. Pastors may not always be as expressive as Paul is to the Thessalonians, but they care deeply for the flock entrusted to their care. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would strengthen what Paul elsewhere describes as “the bond of peace” among a congregation and especially between pastor and parishioners. Christ Jesus is this tie or bond that unites us together.
One of the things that pastors have expressed repeatedly in the recent months is the joy that they have in seeing the return of members who have been away. May God continue to bring back more sheep to His flock and draw in new ones as well that therein they may receive the loving care and attention of a faithful shepherd.
Prayer – Lord God, heavenly Father, You desire that all would be saved and come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Truth, by Your Holy Spirit, enlighten those who hear Your Word by the faithful proclamation of the Gospel so that many more may be with You in paradise; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan