In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18, Paul says he doesn’t need to talk to that church about love, because they have already proven that God has taught them how to love each other, and even how to love Christians in their whole region.
That’s a big compliment! But even though they are exemplary at loving, Paul says there’s just one thing – keep loving each other, more and more. A church can never rest on its laurels, thinking, we’re a really loving church, time to kick back.
Each of us can probably work harder at loving one other; maybe there are
some people you struggle to love, and you need to work on forgiving them, or
thinking of them as your equals, or remembering that God values them as
much as he values you.
Or maybe the need for growth is about what you are prepared to give up;
John says: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life
for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Jesus commanded his disciples – you and me – to testify that we belong to him
by following his example, by giving up our lives for each other. Do you hold
some part of your life back? Are you willing to miss out on catching up with a
friend, to make a stranger welcome at church?
Maybe the area of loving where growth is needed is in speaking the truth in
love; we Christians find it very hard to tell other people unpleasant truths,
whether it is that they have deeply offended us, or that we can see that some
aspect of their behaviour or personal grooming is holding them back. And
often our reluctance is because we don’t love them enough to risk seeming
nasty, or losing their friendship, or getting told off ourselves.
Loving each other is part of being ready for Jesus’ return. We mustn’t put it
off just because we don’t know the deadline – he could come at any moment.
Knowing that takes the sting out of making daily sacrifices: because when he
comes, we will gain so much more than we could possibly lose.