1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 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.
In several places Paul describes his ministry to those to whom he is writing, and to me this is one of the most touching. That’s all the more appropriate when tomorrow is Fathers’ Day! I find it very interesting that Paul would use this imagery when he had no biological children, but it seems like God often works that way. Genetics aren’t the most important thing to pass along! There are all sorts of adoptions, formal and informal. Timothy is Paul’s best-known “son in the faith,” but he actually had many, and here he indicates that the parent-child relationship guided all of his ministry. That seems like a good plan to me! Several things can interfere with that, however. All too many ministers fail to recognize their flock as their spiritual children, and instead act as administrators or even as dictators. That doesn’t build up the Body of Christ! The flip side of that is that many Christians refuse this relationship with their spiritual leaders, perhaps because they didn’t have a good relationship with their biological father. The thing is, God can use the spiritual relationship to heal the wounds caused by the biological relationship, if we are open to it. The three elements of that relationship that Paul mentions here (and there are many) are encouraging, comforting, and urging. Fathers sometimes have to “lay down the law” to their children, but the Japanese says, “privately commanding” (where the NIV says “urging). This isn’t exposing people to public shame, but it is being clear about right and wrong. Encouraging and comforting are given priority, and in most cases that is certainly the best course. As Paul says about biological children, fathers aren’t to “exasperate” (NIV) their children or “provoke them to wrath” (KJV). Proper parenting actually calls for more wisdom than we have, but God provides what we need if we turn to Him (James 1:5) Spiritual and biological fathers alike are dependent on God!
To be honest, it was the mess of spiritual parenting that made me want to be a teacher but not a pastor. My hands were full with my biological children! However, I have learned over the years to relate to my spiritual children this way too. I don’t have biological sons, but I have several spiritual ones, some closer than others. They have taught me how patient God is with me! Any time I am tempted to “lose it” with a spiritual child, God reminds me how I have responded to Him! I am indeed to encourage and comfort, and keep my “I told you so” statements to a minimum. I have a large family indeed, and I am grateful, even for the ones that are on the other side of the world from me geographically.
Father, thank You for being Father indeed, and for organizing us as Your Family. (Ephesians 3:14-15) Help me be the child and the father that You want me to be, nurturing the children who are under me and drawing all to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!