Dear church,

Here’s something to read slowly:

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-7)

Every family has a history, and Paul was drawing out the history of this little church when he called these believers in Thessalonica his “brothers and sisters.” Paul talked about their history.

A family history can be a dangerous thing. We have to be careful in dredging up stories about the past. There might be some unpleasant ones that get pulled out from under the rug from time to time. But Paul opened his letter with the history. It was the family history of this church in Thessalonica.

If you recall, Paul got chased out of town. There were some in the community who wanted no church there. And some rabble-rousers came in, and they mobbed the leader of the church, and they dragged some of the brothers through the streets. And there was a demand for money, and it was paid (Acts 17:1-10). It wasn’t a pleasant history. Things were tense.

For some, these were probably painful memories. For some, there likely was sadness involved. Maybe some of the members of the church were cowardly in those dangerous early days. Maybe some looked back with regret, wishing they’d handled things differently. You know all about those things you wish you’d said in that critical moment – a moment you can’t have back.

It was the family history. And Paul knew it wel. And this is how he described those days. “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Paul told the family history maybe a little differently than they remembered it. There was “full conviction” in those early days of the church in Thessalonica.

What was Paul doing? He was sharing. This is what families do. Families share. We share with one another our time. We share with one another our possessions. We share with one another our talents and gifts. And we share with one another our words. We share ourselves. This is what families do.

And Paul was sharing his thoughts about the early days of life in the church in Thessalonica. It was a church that knew suffering and persecution and, even, death. And Paul wasn’t one of the quiet ones in the church, who slipped in the back and said nothing to anyone, except maybe a “good morning” here and there. Paul share his thoughts. He had something to say. He said, “This is what ‘we know’ about you. And it is good. You are brothers loved by God.”

And so we, too, ought to share with one another. We talk sometimes about sharing things in the church, and it’s often material things we talk about. This isn’t bad. But there’s more to share. Some things need to be said.

Chris

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