Love Letters

When reading a book in the Bible it can be easy for me to think of it as a collection of theological points. Recently re-reading 1 Thessalonians I was stuck by its true character. It is, quite obviously, a love letter. Paul is pouring out his affection for the people he once met with. A people he is, at the time of writing, hindered from returning to. From the beginning he is doting on them praises and affection, celebrating the joy his “brethren beloved” bring to him. Like a loving father, or an awestruck lover, he can’t help but share the beauty he sees in them that they may not see.

Like a father who has sent out his child to make his way in the world, he has heard how cruel the world has been to him. It has caused his son to doubt his worth, and perhaps believe the hateful slurs thrown at him. And so the father reminds him of the honor he was shown his child. He reminds him of his victories in times past. And most of all, he reminds him of how he cares for him, and that as his child, he has infinite worth to the father.

He mourns and comforts them in their trials. But he also celebrates with them in their triumphs, reminding them they are not without reasons to celebrate. There are theological points in there (not to say love is outside theology). However, reading it in the light of Paul’s love makes it hard to come away thinking it is just a dry recital of  religious facts for intellectual education. Rather, these facts are shared because they are meaningful to the hearers. Knowing them gives them hope. They are shared out of the same love and concern for them as the words encouraging them not to forget how precious they are to Paul. Every word is shared in love, to remind, encourage, warn, and bring joy.


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