Defining the Relationship (Part 3): Mother
Two months ago I wrote to you that I thought it would be of some benefit for us to define our relationship and that I thought I Thessalonians 2 would guide us well in this. Last month I suggested it would be good to see ourselves as “brothers and sisters” in Christ. I am your brother. Brother picks up the idea that we will do a lot together, share many things, from stories and songs to sickness and suffering. We are to pray for each other, encourage each other. Brother also reminds us that we have an elder brother, Jesus, and that we ought to live with our eyes admiring Him. At the same time, brother isn’t the whole picture.
Maybe you have seen the T-shirt that has a picture of the milky way galaxy and an arrow pointing into the midst of the galaxy along with the words “You are here.” A reminder of how small we are. Of course, we know that. We are reminded of this regularly. We know, for instance, that in the eyes of the government we are but a number. I have one to prove it. And despite attempts from businesses in sending me a Christmas card to express their best wishes for me personally during the holidays, I know that I was just on a list somewhere of people to receive cards – just one in a thousand or more – my card was a part of their bulk mailing. There are many other examples. But in the end, we know that we are small compared to governments, businesses and galaxies, and that is ok.
What hurts a bit more is when we move from impersonal structures to families, friendships, colleagues, and neighbors and get the feeling that no one really cares about us, but that people are just out for themselves and that we are useful tools to be used for their purposes, whatever those purposes might be. The apostle Paul knows that it would be possible to actually use the Thessalonians for his own purposes. He is careful to state that he would not do such a thing. Greed (using them for their resources), approval (using them to feel good about himself) or glory (using them to achieve higher positions of power or fame) did not motivate him. The Gospel motivated him … and so he describes his relationship with them as follows: “as you know … we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become dear to us.” (v. 7). These Christians were important to Paul, even as they were important to God.
The relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians was one of gentleness, of affection, of desiring the good of the congregation, of sharing his life with them, of being willing to sacrifice time and energy and resources for their benefit. Like a nursing mother caring for her own children. Paul is describing the nurturing love of a mother for her child. He and those with him did not come just to preach at the people, but to preach the Good News of the Gospel with affection and genuine concern so that the Thessalonians might be full of joy and God might be glorified. Mother-like. Christ-like!
If I only care about myself, if I am using you to make a living, to feel good about myself or to gain some sort of accolades, then you ought to find a different pastor. But I want the best for you. I really do. I want to be a faithful “mother” pastor, one who will gently point you in those directions that are best for you in the midst of your struggles and joys. I am convinced that the best is found in a deepening relationship with God through Christ Jesus our Lord. I am convinced that the best is found in a greater knowledge of His Word. And I will strive to give of my time and energy, to share my life and the Gospel of God with you, for God’s glory and for your and my good. Like a mother. Like Christ.