Week 8: The New Testament and Children Cont’d
Day 1: Of Labor and Love – 1 Thessalonians 2:7,11; 1 John 2:1,12,13,18,28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21
The New Testament compares our relationship with those discipling us to the relationships of a nurse or caregiver to the children in their care. In the book of 1 John alone, John refers to his readers as “little children” nine times. (See references above.)
When we see the relationship that pastors and deacons are to have with their children (see previous post) it is easy to get the idea that every thing must be in strict, military order. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 paints a somewhat different picture of how we are to relate not only to those we are discipling but also to the children in our care.
“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” (vs. 7, 8)
What love and tenderness! They were gentle. They took them on as a nurse taking on a child. They cherished them. That word “cheriseth” means to keep warm, or to love or foster with tender care. It is interesting that they do not compare themselves in this passage to parents, but to someone who is not the parent, stepping in and taking care of the child. At first, I intentionally avoided this idea as I was looking at the meanings of the words because I didn’t want to read something into it that wasn’t there. The further I went, however, the more clearly I saw, they were, from a spiritual perspective, doing exactly what a foster parent does.
They were affectionately desirous of Thessalonians. They longed after their souls with love, yearning to bring them to Christ. They were so passionate about this that they were not just willing to give them the Gospel but also to give them their own souls. They deeply invested themselves in the Thessalonians. Why? Because the Thessalonians were “dear” to them. The apostles loved them deeply with that “agape” love with which Christ loved us.
Paul and those with him made an effort not to be burdensome to the Thessalonians (see vs. 6). In verse nine, we see the great amount of labor and effort poured out, both in work to support themselves and work to see the Thessalonians brought to Christ: “For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” Paul wasn’t just talking about any kind of work, he was talking about hard manual labor. He was putting those tent-making skills into practice! He wasn’t just working a couple of hours a day. He was working “day and night”. No small amount of effort was put into seeing that he owed no one any favors. He wanted the people’s minds to be free of distractions, so that they might hear and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He continues, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe. As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye should walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (vs. 10-12)
Now we begin to see that parent/child relationship becoming evident. Paul also gives us quite the description of his approach. But first, he reminds them that they saw it all, they themselves are witnesses. They know what he is saying is true. They saw that in his “parenting” he was holy, just and unblamable. That is a hard act to follow. Pick one and it could take a lifetime to conquer it, and yet that was the testimony that Paul had with the Thessalonians.
Not only did he work hard and live above reproach, Paul was also faithful to exhort, comfort and “charge” them as a father does his children. When needed he would call them alongside and admonish them. He would calm, encourage and console them when it was appropriate. He charged, or implored, them that they should “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”
What an amazing example to follow and how many relationships it covers! The discipleship relationship, of course, is the primary relationship here, but we cannot miss the relationships of fathers, adoptive parents, foster parents and caregivers to their children. What big shoes we have to fill as we seek to bring up all of these children for the Lord!
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption