“Brothers and sisters, we must always thank God for you. This is only right because your faithfulness is growing by leaps and bounds, and the love that all of you have for each other is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
There’s a smile that plays about the face of the great Apostle Paul that is often missed. True, he sometimes shows irritation (“I have heard that there are factions among you, and to some extent I believe it!” 1 Cor 11: 18) and even the occasional fury (“I wish these people who preach circumcision would go all the way and emasculate themselves!” Gal 5:12), but when he thinks of the people who have come to the Lord and are going on strong, then you see the smile of his pleasure.
We always thank God for you. Imagine waking up in the morning, thinking of people who are distant from you, who love you, and smiling on their behalf. It’s not an uncommon thing, but it’s a lovely thing.
And do please consider that there are those in the world right now who smile just because they know you. You have done them good, and they bless God for you.
Love is always reciprocal.
And that’s why Paul was smiling: This [gratitude that I feel] is only right because your faithfulness is growing by leaps and bounds, and the love that all of you have for each other is increasing.
Paul was a strategist, like the guy who said “I love it when a plan comes together.” He had seen a little of what God intended for human beings. He had been summoned by God into the proclamation of that intent, and now he saw it working out in human lives. Not just faithful to God, but loving towards each other.
It’s like the two beams that made up the cross, one reaching towards God and the other reaching towards all the people of the earth.
And at the centre is Christ, indicating that very truth in his death, that this is the God-intended way to live, in total committed faithfulness towards God and total committed love towards each other.