“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”— 1 Thessalonians 2:8
In his book, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, William Willimon shares a portion of a message Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered shortly before his death as spoke to his congregation at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church:
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize; that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards; that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody (p. 53).”
In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul finds himself in a situation in which he must defend his ministry. Paul’s critics aimed to discredit not only the apostle, but also the message of the gospel. He reminds them that his “appeal does not spring from deceit, or impure motives, or trickery” (v. 3). God has entrusted the gospel to him and Paul has a strong sense of responsibility as a Christian leader to be faithful in that stewardship.
Addressing his leadership in ministry among the Thessalonians, he compares himself to a mother caring for her own children, using the word “gentle” to describe his approach. This is a metaphor one might not expect from Paul since the society in which he lived had a tendency to treat women as second-class citizens. And gentleness certainly is not a word many would consider when describing important qualities of leadership. Yet, both gentleness and love were characteristic of Paul’s leadership in Thessalonica as he and his companions shared not only the gospel, “but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (v. 8).
Likewise, Paul had been like a father to them, both by his example and instruction. He honored God, treated people right, and his conduct towards the Thessalonians and around the Thessalonians was above reproach. He also saw the need to instruct them – “urging… encouraging …and pleading” – and the goal he has in mind is that they “lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (v. 12).
This understanding of leadership is modeled after Christ who said “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Prayer: Lord, thank you for entrusting us with the message of the gospel. As we have opportunity to influence others, help us to do so with gentleness and love by our example and instruction.