“Like a nursing mother caring for her own children, with such affection for you we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, NET).
One year, before we had kids, Corinne and I went hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are a lot of bears in the park, and they told us if we hiked to be on the lookout. They also said, “If you see bear cubs, steer clear. Never come between a momma and her cubs.” We didn’t know it at the time, but the week before our visit, someone had been attacked and killed by a mother bear on the very trail we hiked.
There is nothing more powerful than a mother’s love for her baby. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that when he came to Thessalonica to share the gospel, he had such great affection for the believers that he felt like a nursing mother caring for her own children! He shared not only the gospel, but his own life as well.
As I read these words in 1 Thessalonians, I found I could relate to them. I feel much the same way about my own church family. My affection is strong, and my desire is to go beyond simply delivering a message and defining a direction for the next season. I want to move past hiring employees and writing policies. I long to share not only the gospel of God, but life itself.
Affection is a powerful emotion. The people we love and feel affection for become some of the most important and influential people in our lives. Our people play a big role in defining our identity and forming our character. We intuitively know this—that’s why parents are often picky about who their kids are friends with. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor 15:33, NIV). But the reverse is also true: Godly friends influence godly character.
And, it’s every bit as true for adults as it is for teenagers! That’s one reason why people who don’t connect at a deep level with others in the church often describe their faith as having little impact in their lives. But when godly relationships run deep, so does transformation. If we want to see real change happening in us in and our church, we need “to share with [one another] not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.”