“Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more”
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
The apostle Paul must have been filled with encouragement as he penned his letter to the Thessalonian believers. They were genuine, sincere, hard-working for Jesus, and persevering in the face of hostility. And most wonderfully of all, they had a deep and genuine love for each other. A love that, as Paul says in the verses above, is ‘taught by God’: supernatural in origin.
We had a fantastic first birthday celebration for Trinity at Four last Sunday! As I reflect on our first year, there are lots of things that could be said: God’s wonderful practical provision; strong and growing relationships with Holy Trinity church; the servant-hearted and godly support of their minister Duncan Carter; the many newcomers who have come, heard something of Jesus and been struck by the warmth and welcome.
But on Sunday, as we were all there, chatting, laughing, praying, singing, eating, dancing and (for the young-uns) running around, I had an overwhelming sense of one thing above all: that God has been teaching us, as he also did the Thessalonians all those years ago, to love each other.
The genuine love of a community cannot be faked, or manufactured, or coerced. No amount of glittering publicity, smooth administration, gifted volunteers or generous financial giving can create or sustain genuine love. Love like this can only grow as a community is increasingly rooted in God’s love poured out through Jesus and testified to in the Scriptures.
It is this kind of community that powerfully testifies to the reality of Jesus and the power of the good news of his gospel; and that over time, will be used by God to draw many who don’t yet know Jesus to trust him personally themselves.
So what am I most thankful for as I look back on this first exciting year? In a word, Jesus. For his work among us, in us and through us.
And what’s my hope for the coming year and beyond? Paul couldn’t have put it better to the church family in Thessalonica: “And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.”
How about aiming for some of that ‘more and more’ ourselves this coming year?