Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, Hebrews 4:12
I send more emails every day than I can count, but there’s one that brings me an inordinate amount of joy. It’s not work-related, requires many pop culture references, and has low standards for correct grammar. Any questions as to why it’s my favorite?
You see, a few years ago, I was sitting at my desk at a new job when an email popped up from a name I recognized, yet hadn’t talked to in quite some time. “LONG LOST FRIEND” was in the subject line, and the unnecessary capitalization has become our own kind of necessary in the hundreds of emails that have been sent and received since.
What started out as a lighthearted attempt for two girlfriends to catch up over lunch breaks and between meetings became a regular rhythm in my day, and eventually, the sweetest lifeline. This email chain connected two very different lives: one single and dating, and the other newly married; one in Tennessee and the other in Mississippi. But despite our different seasons of life, both of us needed encouragement, typed-out prayers, and echoes of “me too” in ways we couldn’t before describe.
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians puts words to why the silly emails between my friend and me aren’t so silly after all: God created our lives to be shared. When the Thessalonians read Paul’s words for the first time, I like to imagine them getting the same silly grin I do when an email pops up from my modern-day pen pal. Paul was their guy! He understood them! Thessalonica was going through their own share of suffering and affliction, but this letter was filled with gospel truths—the motivation they needed to help them endure.
Paul’s letter illustrates that being a family of faith involves knowing and being known. His writing assumes a prior two-way relationship, one that repeats phrases like “for you yourselves know” and “as you know.” Closeness in community is vital for any gospel-centered relationship—in ministry, in suffering, and everything in between. But this closeness is not merely circumstantial or emotional; it is rooted in truth and grown in grace.
One of the best ways to receive and offer encouragement in community is through God’s Word. Paul knew the importance of communicating the truth about Jesus, mentioning Him by name in every single chapter of 1 Thessalonians. As sisters in Christ, we too ought to permanently carry the gospel of hope on our tongues.
God gives us pieces of His own love when He gives us friendship with one another. Whether with a faraway friend via email or a coworker over coffee, we get to witness redemption, encourage growth, and partake in God’s goodness when we share with others “not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Thanks be to God.