1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
If you’ve ever studied the five love languages that author Gary Chapman made popular, you know that speaking “words of affirmation” is an effective way to communicate care. For anyone in the church at Thessalonica whose preferred love language is affirmation, Paul’s introduction would have been so welcome. He immediately describes how much he loves and values their congregation.
Sometimes we look past these pleasantries in Paul’s letters as simply words of formality, but imagine how important these words would be to a struggling church. After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the community is just starting to understand what it means to be Christ followers. They face the ridicule of those outside the church for abandoning other faith traditions and leaving behind their false gods. Despite their challenges, Paul commends the faith, hope, and love that he finds in their actions.
We often underestimate what encouraging words can do for people and communities. Too often we’re quick to criticize or name a wrong, but Paul reminds us that powerful words can build up a community. What would happen if we spent our days looking for ways to affirm the people within our congregations for what they regularly do? How would building one another up deepen our faith and our community
Our churches don’t look identical to the early one at Thessalonica, but we share similar challenges: volunteer burn out, extensive time commitments, hurt feelings, and more. A few words of affirmation could revitalize weary souls and enliven our work.
In what new ways could I encourage the people within my faith community?
God, thank you for all the workers who faithfully serve you in seen and unseen ways. Amen.