Prayer for the Church
Open Your Bible
1 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Psalm 119:1, 2 Timothy 1:1-12, Hebrews 10:23-25
BY Jen Yokel
Recently, I had a chance to catch up over the phone with a friend I’ve known for over 15 years. We hadn’t spoken in a while, but once the conversation got flowing, we were mutually delighted to discover the ways we’d seen God’s constant work in us and our families over the years. Two hours later, I hung up the phone feeling the joy of being known and the encouragement to keep pressing on.
To me, this feels like the kind of conversation Paul is having with the church at Thessalonica. Since he had been forced to abruptly leave them, Paul, long separated from this beloved Greek church, was worried about how they were faring under persecution. But in this section of his letter, you can feel his relief to hear they aren’t just surviving, but thriving. They’ve already become well known for their steadfast commitment to the faith and their powerful love for each other.
So, what does a spiritual father say to people who are doing well? In other letters, you may see Paul correcting sin or offering education, but in this one, we mostly find delight, encouragement, and a heartfelt blessing to keep going. He celebrates the good they’ve been doing, then pushes them to take that goodness further, praying they increase and overflow with love and that God will “make [their] hearts blameless in holiness” (1Thessalonians 3:13).
“Blameless” isn’t a word we use too often these days, and if you’re prone to thinking of humans as chronically imperfect, it can sound like a tall order for anyone. In the biblical Greek language, “blameless” means a serious calling to be free of fault, to be perfect, to be so far above reproach no one can say anything bad about you. Paul knows they’ve done well, so now he is calling them to go further as they deepen their love for God and each other, to keep growing and representing Christ in their community, no matter the challenges, persecution, and turmoil they face.
So, how do you strive for perfection when the whole world seems to come against you, when life continues to wear you down? Blamelessness, it seems, doesn’t happen through individualistic striving. It calls for living in a tension between actively walking by God’s instruction (Psalm 119:1) and “relying on the power of God” (2Timothy 1:8). Fortunately, we don’t do this alone. This happens in community, too, “as we consider one another in order to provoke love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). It happens when we listen to each other’s stories for encouragement and support, and it happens when we study God’s faithfulness to the Church across generations and cultures. May that give us all a reason for hope, gratitude, and encouragement.