And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 [ESV]
I’ve enjoyed an ongoing conversation with a friend regarding pride as the root sin. His contention – one that I am not able to refute – is that pride is the root of all sin. Pride certainly moved Satan to rebel against God. Satan used pride to tempt Eve, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil…” Pride led Eve to take the forbidden fruit. Pride may have played into Adam’s demur and consequent eating of the forbidden fruit – though I might make a case for fear as the cause of his action. Nonetheless, pride is certainly a terrible evil.
In our conversation my friend pointed me to a website of which I was aware, but to which I never go without being pointed to it be someone I know. Dedicated to upholding truth at all costs, the writers opine on things germaine to current theological issues in our church body. My friend shared an article on pride from that site with which I mostly agreed. I did not see much stated about the reason for an attitude of humility as opposed to pride – beyond the fact that pride is an affront to God, and a terrible sin (which it surely is).
But Paul, here, expresses a deep love for the people of Thessalonica. They are true brothers in the faith, and have suffered like difficulties and even persecutions for the sake of their faith in Jesus. His love for them, and his willingness to acknowledge them as brothers in suffering is an act of great humility. I’m not sure many people suffered to the extent Paul did during his missionary activity. But Paul considers them brothers in suffering.
Humility before God is essential. Humility before our sisters and brothers in Christ is the beautiful adornment of true faith. It is the handmaid of grace and truth. It is essential for true teaching, learning, and fellowship.
When a love of truth is combined with an attitude of humility great beauty unfolds. Discarding truth sullies humility, turning it into sentimentality. Truth held without humility is like a noisy gong and clanging cymbal (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). We have both of these in these few verses. I hope to display that beauty in my teaching and life. I hope you will too.