Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 [ESV]
We came home from the hospital to find the house completely cleaned up, the pleasant smell of clean laundry and the sight of shining floors greeting us. Beds made. Dishes washed and put away. With three boys and a fourth one on the way there was always something out of place or a dish on the counter. And the youngest three made their own beds as you might expect 3-, 6-, and 8-year olds to do. But I felt like I was walking into a model home. What kindness had been visited upon us!
The guilty party was a member of the church I served at the time. And she wasn’t the only one given to such kindnesses. Others volunteered to take the boys to the park, brought dinner, or helped in other ways. Diane’s pregnancy was challenging and our youngest was born 8 weeks premature. He was tiny, but the people’s love was large. Their kindnesses were labors of love for God and for us.
Paul is thankful to God for the labors of love on the part of the Thessalonians. That most likely involved financial support while he was in prison, or off on a mission trip. It most likely also involved acts of kindness and love for one another in the church there as well. And Paul realized that love within the Body of Christ was not only a command of Jesus, but a cause for joy and thanksgiving. It was a reminder of God’s love and an encouragement to keep the faith.
Perhaps you have experienced such labors of love. You may have done them yourself for others. Sometimes they are remarkably easy. You enjoy cooking so you cook twice as much as you need and bring a meal to a friend. You are passing the store on the way home and stop by to get needed items for a sick neighbor.
But sometimes these acts of love are much more challenging. You don’t really have time, but you listen patiently as your brother in Christ pours out his tale of woe and disappointment. You a weekly trip to the residential care facility to see a cousin and offer him a ray of sunshine. You dig deep into your savings to help a niece who can’t seem to hold a job. You consider it an investment and hope it pays off in a better life for her. You forgive a close friend for his offence against you.
Love does these kinds of things because it is inspired by God’s love for us. God’s love moved him to do the most difficult thing imaginable. It moved him to die for us. That is a source of joy and cause of praise. However we may reflect that in our labors of love simply reflects that love, and dimly at best. For Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By his death we are saved. And because we are saved we are free to do labors of love freely. And others will thank God for us and his name will be praised.