Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:11–13)
This passage is a prayer for the church of the Thessalonians. And such a moving and timeless prayer it is! Ponder for a moment its applications today.
The authors of this epistle include the Apostle Paul, Silvanus (also known as Silas) and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1). They started the mission work in the city of Thessalonica but had to leave abruptly. Hence it was important follow up with a letter to this young church.
Even our oldest churches would benefit from such petitions before God. Every congregation in the Ohio District would appreciate seeing members “increase and abound in love for one another…”
Consider the practical impact such love could have on our congregations. All our churches feel tensions, to varying degrees, about how to proceed in this pandemic.
- What should we do about live-streaming or posting recorded worship services online?
- How should we offer the Lord’s Supper?
- How can we bring unity between members who feel differently about requiring face masks when we come together at church?
- How can we bring peace between members who feel strongly for and against COVID-19 vaccination?
Now, instead of focus on these issues, let’s focus on our love for one another. What if God created a desire in all our members to first look for the needs of fellow church members, then consider our own needs? What if our commitment to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ were to supersede our personal preferences on the above issues? I dare say one result is that we would deal with the above issues even better than we are today.
This is not some pipe dream. We’re talking about asking God to form and shape our hearts to deeply care for one another, even above ourselves. Since this is God’s work, it is possible.
(This devotion was written for the congregations of the Ohio District – LCMS.)