“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 6 TNIV)
What does God want from people? What does it mean to be a Christian? My impression from these two verses in Thessalonians is that the people in the Christian community in Thessalonica to whom this letter was written understood their faith in Christ to be more of a commitment in their lives than just “going to church.” Somehow, between then and now, between their culture and ours, there’s been a bit of a disconnect. Somehow, our culture has come to understand Christianity as a once a week (or at least two times a month) activity rather than a life-altering reality. The people of Thessalonica didn’t just have a changed attendance pattern in response to their faith, they had completely changed lives.
Their faith produced work. What would it look like for us if our life’s work was a product of our faith? Their love prompted labor. What would it look like if my labor and the way I went about it was prompted by love instead of numbers and bottom lines and productivity and statistical measures? Their hope in Jesus Christ inspired endurance. What would it look like if we had endurance rooted in a conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord of all things and in the end is victorious over all things?
Work. Labor. Endurance. Now, I know many people would say it takes work, labor, and endurance to sit through a worship service on any given Sunday, but I think what’s happening here in Thessalonica is bigger than that. To be an “imitator of the Lord” isn’t just to attend a weekly gathering, but to commit one’s whole life to the way of Jesus Christ.
God, may I join the Thessalonians in their work, their labor, their endurance, and their imitation of your Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.