The following is a part of our weekly devotional series, which is a companion to the 2013 Foursquare Life Journal. This week’s Bible reading comes from Matt. 20-28; Ps. 125; 1 Thess. 1-5; 2 Thess. 1-3; and Rom. 1-8.
I find it’s particularly difficult to grow the depth of my relationships while feeling the sting of past failures. The challenge with pastoral ministry is that we must make ourselves open and vulnerable to the people we serve, displaying the personal and authentic love that Jesus modeled in the gospels. When I’m feeling betrayed, abandoned, mistreated, or unvalued by people I genuinely love, I find myself wanting to distance myself from people in the future. How can we continue to pour our hearts into the sheep while reeling from relational wounds?
The apostle Paul had more than a few opportunities to become calloused and embittered. He experienced betrayal, opposition, persecution and abandonment that would rattle any one of us. In 1 Thess. 2, however, we see Paul’s commitment to authentic, personal investment in the people he served. Immediately on the heels of being severely mistreated (v. 2), he boldly proclaimed the gospel in the context of real relationship.
First, Paul and his cohort presented the gospel with the tender care of a new mother (v. 7). His ministry would not become sterile or impersonal because of previous wounds. Rather, he stated, “having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (v. 8, NASB). Paul’s answer to mistreatment was renewed vulnerability—pouring into the sheep with great, personal love.
Second, Paul’s belief in the relational side of ministry inspired the way he and his team developed godly leaders. Like spiritual fathers, they exhorted, encouraged and implored the church to follow after Jesus (v. 11). A minister of the gospel draws out the God-given dreams of others. The maternal and paternal analogies Paul employed reflect the way he envisioned ministry relationships—personal and intimate.
The best way to recover from a relational wound is not to shrink back, but to once again make yourself vulnerable. I think Paul was able to do it, not because he was more resilient or less affected by broken relationships, but because he knew that the gospel shared through relationship is a vehicle for God’s transformative work. We cannot divorce loving relationships from our proclamation of the gospel; that would constitute a dereliction of our mission.
Rather, we are called into fellowship with the suffering of Christ by once again pouring ourselves out for others. In so doing, we can watch God call people into His kingdom and glory (v. 12). Our part is to impart the gospel and our own lives in relationship, and watch Him advance His kingdom in our midst. And even in the shadow of broken relationships and burned bridges, our God bids us to come receive the healing balm from His Spirit and to open our hearts to others once again.
By: Peter Henderson, senior pastor of Living Way Fellowship (Littleton Foursquare Church) in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
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