I ended my ‘phone call’ with a full, content, and happy heart. It isn’t easy to connect with family and friends from home as a result of my missionary life. The time and schedule difference make any kind of communication an obstacle to overcome between the US and South Africa. It’s doable, of course. However, effort and commitment are required to meaningfully engage over time zones, continents, oceans, and calendar dates. My friend made that commitment last night and it was marrow to my bones.
Do you have any friends who bless your soul, like that?
Do you have any friends who connect with your heart, like that?
Do you have any friends who love you so much that they are willing to lay aside their schedule constraints to make you a priority, like that?
Do you have any friends who are so dear to you that the time you share together refreshes, rejuvenates, and recalibrates you, like that?
Gratefully, I do.
It’s been nearly two years since I was in the States and on my ‘home-turf’ and enjoying this kind of heart connection. When I’m over there, I enjoy many sweet, marrow-to-the-bones times with my family and with my life-long friends. I don’t take this precious time for granted. It’s an extraordinary, special and uncommon moment to have face-to-face, heart-to-heart conversations – to catch up on life in person with those I have shared decades of life and am blessed with decades of memories.
After reading Paul’s words to his Thessalonian friends, I identified with his words of strong affection:
We loved you so much that we delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 2: 8
The phrase ‘because you had become so dear to us’ comes from the Greek transliterated word, homeironmenoi. Homeironmenoi is used only one time in the New Testament and it is through this word that Paul expresses his strong affection and willingness to lay down his life for his Thessalonian friends.
Paul nurtured their affection in Christ as he took time to pay attention to their needs – even from a distance. It was not possible for Paul to be with his friends. He longed to be with the Thessalonians because of the strong attachment they enjoyed. He cared for this group, so much so, that he was willing to risk his life for their spiritual nourishment and eternal welfare. Self-interest, personal ambition, and independence held no place in this precious relationship. Paul lived his life for those he loved, and the Thessalonians knew it.
Do we have friendships like that?
Do we have a faith community like that?
Do we have a place of worship where we can go to experience deep, meaningful, and faith-inspiring growth in our relationship with Jesus Christ?
Do we take opportunities to give ourselves – without agenda or self-interest- so that other followers of Jesus Christ may experience soul refreshment and a deep, abiding and secure love in Christ?
Do we experience strong affection in our small groups and places of worship?
Do we feel a sense of belonging, feel that we are known, and feel richly loved?
Paul expressed this kind of love and regard for the Thessalonians and in so doing their love for Christ grew beyond themselves. So much so, that the Thessalonians became known everywhere for their love and faith in Jesus Christ! They transformed into a secure, safe, and loving people of Christ – even non-believers took note of their faith and complimented them, wondering what set them apart!
Don’t we want to experience this kind of belonging and delightfully affirming attachment in our relationships, that would impact a hurting world?
How do we start?
We ask ourselves: Are we concerned about the spiritual and eternal welfare of others?
We ask ourselves: Do we want to see people enjoy the belonging, security, and love of Jesus Christ?
We ask ourselves: Do we have the capacity to show love to others – regardless of who they are or where they come from or what they need?
If we determine to answer ‘yes,’ then we can begin to love like Paul and the Thessalonians.
We disregard our self-interests, apathy, and busy-ness of life, and turn our attention to the care of those in our sphere of influence. We choose to connect and offer belonging, offer relationship, and offer love with deep sincerity.
What if we did that?
What if we chose to nurture the affection of Jesus Christ in our families, in our friendships, in our small groups, in our places of worship, in our work, in our communities, and beyond – just like the Thessalonians did centuries ago?
Would we go away from each other feeling full, happy, and content – longing for another opportunity to be together – like I did after my phone call with my friend?
Paul and the Thessalonians laid down their lives for each other…and they changed their world!
What if we chose to connect more with one another and love each other deeply – motivated by our love for Jesus Christ?
Would it make a difference?
Will we love like that?