Increasing and Abounding
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
The streets of St. Louis are filled violence. The gravel roads of rural Missouri bear the marks of a rampant opioid addiction. Jefferson City, like the nation’s capital, features finger pointing and resentment. The ways of the world are rooted in power and control. Sadly, conflict in the church adopts the world’s tactics as lines are drawn and sides are taken. As we have seen over the last several weeks in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, He has a deep love for those new Christians. While he longs to see them in person, his greatest concerns is that they are growing in Christ.
In the words above, Paul expresses his hope for these beloved believers with a prayer that the Lord would make them increase and abound in love. Rather than acrimony and bitterness, Paul’s desire is that they show the world what is different of those who are in Christ by their love for one another. Let us never forget that the only way that such love is possible among hard-headed, stiff-necked sinners is through Christ and His Word. The Holy Spirit is able to transform those from seeking power and control to walking in the way of love as their hearts are established in Christ.
The solution for conflict within Christ’s Church begins with repentance. When we confess our sins and acknowledge our own role in the conflict, God’s response is always one of grace and mercy. God forgives us of those sins as our pastor speaks on God’s behalf the words of Absolution. Through the Word as it is preached, prayed, sung, and studied, God transforms us so that we increase and abound in love. There is great benefit in hearing Absolution pronounced privately, but it is also a blessing to be reminded each week that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness and that for Christ’s sake we are forgiven. While I pray that our congregations will increase and abound “numerically,” far more important is that we are increasing and abounding in Christ and in love for one another.
Prayer – Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we acknowledge that we have sinned against you and against one another in thoughts, words, and deeds. Forgive us, Lord, and by Your Holy Spirit, make us to grow in love for one another and for You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan