As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:
6But now, Timothy coming to us from you and bringing good news to us [about] your faith and love, and that you always have good memories of us, longing to see us, just as we you. 7Brothers, because of this we are comforted upon you upon the all our distress and affliction because of your faith, 8because now we live if you stand firm in the Lord.
“…because now we live if you stand firm in the Lord.”
As I have been pondering these verses, I am struck by just how much Paul really did love these people. Really. I’ve said before, if this were a parent writing to one of their children, it would be more understandable. But it is not. Here Paul is talking about longing to see these people, about not being able to stand it not knowing how they’re doing, about how he actually finds great comfort in his own hardships just knowing that in fact they’re doing okay, and being able to say, “now we live if you stand firm in the Lord.”
Is this kind of intense love normal? For parents toward their children, yes. Toward other people? I don’t think so. Someone may say, but this is the love of a spiritual father toward his children – a minister toward the people he has led to Christ. That sounds ideal but have you ever seen it in the real world? Do you honestly know anyone like that?
As I turn the gun of conviction on my own heart, I know I don’t love people like that. I like people. I certainly wish and pray the best for other people. I’m glad when they succeed. And I can be sincerely saddened to see them suffer. But Paul’s kind of parental love – a heart that rises and falls on others’ well-being – is not what I find in my heart.
I pondered this same observation back when I was studying 2:7,8. I noted there and will say it again, what is this powerful love that this man Paul had? Is it not simply the love of Jesus? Is it not simply the love of our God for each and every human being? I think the obvious answer is yes. It is His love. And how did Paul get it? By drinking deeply of his own relationship with Jesus – so much so that he actually loved like Jesus. Really.
Which brings me back to myself. The thought is both convicting and encouraging. It is convicting because the lack of love I find in my own heart tells me I need to drink more deeply of my relationship with Jesus. It is encouraging because I know that is exactly what does happen – the closer I get to Jesus, the better I know Him, the more He moves me to see other people through His eyes – and to love them. I’m not “there” yet. But He is moving me that way.
I know He said in the last days “the love of many will wax cold.” I wonder if that isn’t what we’re living. If that is the spirit of our age, then all the more I pray He will deliver me from it. He is our hope. “Beholding His image, we’re changed into that image, from glory to glory.”
I also want to note that what particularly encouraged Paul in the Thessalonians was their “faith and love.” It is well to be reminded those are the cornerstones of life itself. In Galatians 5:6, he wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” If we would have more of anything, would that it were faith and love our hearts desired. Then no matter what else we gained we could say, “It is well.”
I will close this by saying the Lord has used these verses to show me how little love I really have in my own heart, but He also greatly encourages me because He reminds me the way to “fix” that problem is to know Him better. To know His heart is to change mine.
Lord, as we go out to live, even if this is an age of “cold love,” may Your love truly find a home in our hearts, and may it somehow touch the hearts of all these people You love.