We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Don't let my current "dad bod" fool you; I swam competitively for a few years while in high school. Okay, so competitively might be a bit of stretch to describe my athletic prowess in the water; Michael Phelps didn't have to worry about me competing for any gold medals. I wasn't fast as a fish in the sea, but neither was I a manatee plodding around in the ocean.
I remained firmly planted somewhere in the middle of the pecking order of my high school team. I never won a race, but every time I finished a swim and looked up towards the stands, I saw my mom and dad cheering me on. They never missed a meet. They even woke up before the sun made an appearance to drive me to practice. Mom would cook pasta dishes to help me "carbo load" and my dad would take me out for ice cream after those few races when I got the pity clap for finishing last in my heat (this might explain my love for comfort food, but I digress).
All that to say, my parents always showed up, and for that, I'm forever grateful. I realize I am very fortunate. And maybe that's why the words of Paul in today's passage resonate with me. He uses the imagery of a caring mother and an encouraging father to describe the type of relationship he had with the believers in Thessalonica. He invested in them. He cared for them. He showed up and did life with them. He lived out the words of Christ's love, hope, and forgiveness amongst them.
The same connection Paul had with them is what we’re called to display in our relationships. Reaching people and helping them walk with God begins and ends when we consistently show up for others. Relationships can't flourish at a distance; they require proximity and investment displayed over time. The well-known adage holds true that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Talking about the love and compassion of Christ falls on deaf ears if it doesn't become visible in our actions. There's no point in sharing about Christ's sacrifice if we're unwilling to share our lives as well. People aren't projects; they're individuals created by God who have hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities.
Our job isn't to fix; it's to care. In the victories as well as the defeats, we're there cheering them on every step of the way. We weep with those who mourn and celebrate with those who rejoice. We provide a shoulder to cry on, attentive ears to listen, and humble hands wherever they’re needed. No matter what our friends and family face in life, they can look up into the stands and trust we're going to be there. People don't always need a sermon, but they do yearn for others to show up.
We do all of these things not as a bait and switch or to get our foot in the door. We live this way because Christ's love transformed us from the inside out. At our core, unconditional and others focused love defines who we are.
Who are you investing in and sharing your life with regularly?
Where do you need to be reminded that people aren't projects and your job isn't to fix, but to care?
God, I thank you for the people you've placed in my life. It's an honor to care, support and encourage them. I pray that by me showing up they would see You in everything I do. I want my heart to expand and grow with Your compassion and grace. Give me eyes to see the needs around me so that I can show up in these places. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.