…you know we lived among you for your sake. 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. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… 1 Thessalonians 1:5-9
I still have a pretty strong southern accent from growing up in coal country. I don’t notice it but even my children make comments about how I say certain words. For instance, I might say pie a bit slow and drawn out. When I say “get” it doesn’t rhyme with “yet”.
Even now, when I see or talk to someone who shares my southern drawl, my accent tends to get stronger and you might hear me say things like “I reckon” or “fixin’ to”. Without meaning to, I naturally mimic their speech. Things have a way of rubbing off on us just like the coal dust from my dad’s clothes rubbed off on me.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians we see his intentionality in “living among them” and spending time with them. He lived his daily life with them, no doubt pouring out all God had filled him with. God used Paul’s investment in them to bring them into a relationship with Himself. They received the message of Christ, welcomed it, and began to replicate the good things they were seeing. The Message translation words it like this, “In imitating us, you imitated the Master” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Paul goes on to say that the church in Thessalonica became an example to all believers not just in their city but to all who came in contact with them. Their lives spoke not because they were making great accomplishments but simply because of who they were. They “turned” and “served” and, in so doing, their ordinary lives became extraordinary evidence to others that God was real.
It matters who we spend our time with. Personally, I like to surround myself with people who are wiser than me. The people whose lives touch my soul and draw me in. The people who Jesus has so obviously rubbed off on. I seek them out on a regular basis because when I spend time with them I sense their time with Jesus overflowing from their heart to mine. I also try to spend time with those who are younger than me, those who are struggling, or those who intentionally seek me out. It goes both ways. As God pours into us we can pour out to others. I don’t want to hoard a full cup. Imagine if Paul had hoarded his.
“We think salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgments at those who have been soiled by life…[but] Jesus says the kingdom of His father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for those who feel they possess the state secret of salvation. The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.” -Brennan Manning from The Ragamuffin Gospel
Read the quote from Brennan Manning. While it is important to spend time with those we believe are wise, it is equally important to regularly spend time with those who desperately need to know they are loved by God. People are not waiting for you to tell them how to be a “better Christian”, they are waiting for someone to show them that God loves them exactly as they are. Spend time with God reflecting and confessing the ways that you have unconsciously tried to build a wall keeping people out of the kingdom of God. Ask God to show you practical ways to be a vessel of inviting them in.
Lord, Thank you for the people in my life who have helped me to love You more. Thank you for those who have invested their life and time in me. Thank you that Your kingdom is a hospital for sinners and not a haven for saints. Please change my self-righteous ways into the way of Your kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.
PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.