1 Thessalonians 3:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 8:16-21
In 2015, as my wife and I made our way home to Nashville from spending Thanksgiving with our families in Indiana, we hydroplaned on I-65. We hit a concrete barrier in the middle of the highway and flipped back into the southbound lanes of traffic, landing on the roof of our Toyota Camry. It was the most terrifying experience of both of our lives. We crawled out of the car with minor physical injuries but lasting emotional ones. The horrifying event dramatically changed how I relate to my wife and how I love other people. You don’t walk away from a traumatic accident like that unchanged, even if physically unscathed.
Toward the end of his first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul encourages his readers by transcribing his prayer for them. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12, he prays, “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you.”
As he says earlier the chapter, Paul is anxious about the Christians at Thessalonica (vv. 1-5). He fears that Satan has tempted them to abandon the Christian faith because of the difficulty and persecution they’ve had to endure as a result of their faith in Jesus.
In today’s reading, as Paul finishes up his letter to his brothers and sisters in the faith, he feels the need to encourage them. If they are going to be able to endure the hardships that have already afflicted them and the troubles that are yet to come, they would have to love each other with an overflowing love that can not be quelled no matter the circumstances or persecution they face. The love the Christians in Thessalonica have for one another needs to be strengthened despite their hardships, not eroded by them.
In the same way that our terrible crash drew my wife and I closer together and radically changed the way we love each other, so we Christians must love one another in times of hardship with an overflowing kind of love that is bolstered by difficulty, not defeated by it.
Like Paul prays for the Christians of Thessalonica, our understanding of God’s love for us must cause our hearts to overflow with love for others. Any trials or difficulties we may encounter must serve to strengthen, not weaken, our love for one another.
Written by Chris Martin