As you read the opening chapters of 1 Thessalonians, I hope you will be struck by Paul’s great feelings for these Christians. He had not been with them a long time, but for Paul, leaving them was heart-breaking.
That’s probably a new thought for many of us. Paul was always on the move. There were always other cities to visit, other churches to establish. Yet, it would appear that Paul’s movement was mostly external – not internal. We can choose to believe these moves were because of persecution alone, or that God was behind them all, relentlessly pushing Paul forward in the spread of the gospel. But however we choose to think about it, Paul seems to have found the whole process quite disconcerting. He knew that those he left behind so quickly were new to the faith, that they had been forced to absorb a new and different way of thinking, counter-cultural to the one they had grown up with. How well would they fare?
Paul continually prays for these people. Among them he was like a mother caring for her children, like a father encouraging and comforting them and urging them on in the faith. He describes having to leave them as being “torn” from them and tells them that he tried to return to them repeatedly and that he persistently asks God to allow him to come back to Thessalonica (2:18 and 3:10) and that while he is away, and alive, he found it hard to get on with his life until he knew they were ok.
Paul’s concern for them is their spiritual well-being. Who are those in your life you feel the same about? Unless, and until, our concern for the salvation of others is this strong, the Church will always languish and be in danger. If Christ gave his life for the Church, and Paul felt this strongly about it, should our concern not be the same?
If that is, we are going to follow Jesus?