Intro: I so appreciate it when people are courteous [show polite behavior] to me and others around me. Showing respect or being courteous as we encounter other people should be something adult human beings have already mastered; it should be a fundamental start in childhood development that is matured in us as we grow into adulthood. Every human being has been given life [created] by the Creator. Yet, as much as we may share in common, we have no clue about the environment in which a person has been raised or what he or she is enduring in their personal lives. Therefore, our default behavior, as believers, should be to treat others the way we would want to be treated (Mat 7:12). But is extending courtesy or respect to others—no matter how they treat us—enough for those who represent Christ and the love of God?
In our passage today, the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica [and all believers] to encourage faith as they [and we] endure wrongful persecution from others. Paul exhorts the faith and strength of character these Thessalonians have demonstrated; yet, he takes things a bit further to challenge them in their love walk. Courtesy can be taught human-to-human, but the measure of love God requires through the action of his children demands a connection to Christ!
A dear friend sent me an article and true story the other day about a Palestinian man [Don Shachar] who, as a 12 y/o child, ran away from his father and his home in Gaza to Israel, because he was being indoctrinate with hatred for the Jews and he did not understand the mindset. This man [thirty-six years later] is now speaking out, because he has tasted and knows the love of God in his new homeland of Israel. I will share just a paragraph from his story, but he shares a great deal more about his life of abuse from his biological father, family, and homeland: “They told us at school, ‘It’s a great commandment to kill Jews because they took your land, and you will fight until the last drop of blood to regain the land.’ After I ran away, I started working in security and later in construction in Israel. I worked in that industry for several years. The place where I worked was a neighborhood of villas in the final stages of construction. One day, a Jewish man came. I greeted him, and he asked me where my father was. I told him I didn’t have a father. He went home and came back with hot soup, food, clothes, games, a stereo system, and a cassette of a famous singer in Israel. I connected with him.’” In the article, it appears this man later became Don’s adopted father.
Jesus reminds us God’s love must spill out of our lives into the lives of others. The gospel is not just to be read; it is to be lived out. Being courteous or polite to others is good; however, showing love to our enemies requires the supernatural strength and forgiveness of God. Jesus said it this way, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-28). The gospel takes us to a much deeper place of living than simply extending courtesy. May we listen!
1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 NLT
6 But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. 8 It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
9 How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.
11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for our lesson, today, and the conviction we experience knowing we need more of your love operating in our lives. We pray for the supernatural love of Christ to fill us and the work of the Spirit to lead us into opportunities of revelation and service in Jesus’ name. Amen.