The following message was preached at the Central Schwenkfelder Church in Worcester, PA on January 23, 2011, taken from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
What is meant by the acrostic TLC? What do these letters stand for? When we speak of TLC, it stands for “Tender Loving Care.” Solicitous and compassionate care, as in: “These houseplants sure have had tender loving care,” or “older house for sale, needs some renovation and TLC.” Originally used to describe the work of care-givers such as nurses, this term today is often used as a figure of speech.
Today’s world needs more people and places of “TLC.” In my trip to Greece in June, I heard of gut wrenching story of a pregnant woman who traveled from Afghanistan to Athens in search of a better way of life. Upon conceiving the couples’ third child and finding out it was another daughter, her husband promptly kicked her out of the home. His reasoning was this: since she did not produce sons, there was no room for her in the home. So the lady became a refugee. Unfortunately, this is how people are treated in the world. So places and groups of TLC are much needed around us.
How should Christians treat each other? What makes us attractive organization? Could it be our sense of TLC? For our answer, let’s look in our passage of 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul starts with…
I. A DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTLESHIP.
Notice his words in verse one: “You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” Paul is defending his apostleship and motivations as he did in 1:5: “… because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.” But whenever the gospel advances, opposition is expected.
Paul and his friends lived with this tension. Peter Cousins writes: ‘The ancient world was full of wandering “philosophers” and “holy men,” who were greedy and unscrupulous. Some of Paul’s enemies suggested that he was one of these, but he denies the charge.” People were skeptical then, just like they are today. People have always been vulnerable to so called “spiritual men,” asking for money or seeking power. He also brought their attention to how they conducted themselves among others. They worked hard, provided for themselves and served their hearers. He states that they did not show up with flattering words. There is an old saying: “Flattery will get you nowhere.” Flattery can be defined as any insincere use of words. In some instances, a person may flatter, while secretly having underhanded motives.
Paul also points out that it was not because of greed that they ministered in the city. In contrast, Paul draws attention to the intense opposition he encountered. For instance, he was flogged at Philippi, and then jailed at Thessalonica. Not a vacation by any means! As in Philippi, so also in Thessalonica, the message of Jesus encountered strong opposition (Acts 16 & 17).
This reminds us that the Christian faith will always receive opposition in this world. It will not be popular as long as Christians behave as salt and light in this world; as long as believers take a stand for God and His truth. For instance, we believe there’s only one God and that He created the universe. And the way in which we relate to God is simple: through Jesus Christ. We hold to the truth that one must not only seek forgiveness for their sins, but turn from them to have eternal life. Christians have a strong sense of right and wrong. Even though this will be unpopular in the eyes of our peers, we are called to an exclusive loyalty. We are to be God pleasers, rather than people-pleasers. These convictions can appear unattractive, even repulsive, in the eyes of some who want to believe that God is what you make Him to be, and that even you are God, as promoted in the recent movie: “Eat, Pray and Love.” Then there is the attractive aspect of our message, what appeals to the masses. What sets us apart from the other religious groups? Not only our theology, but also our way of life and how we relate to one another. For this, we turn to…
II. PAUL’S OFFENSIVE OF LOVE.
From this, we know that a healthy church has an offensive of love. This can be understood by the letters: TLC. Notice Paul’s words in verse 6: “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
Notice that Paul likens his love for these believers to a family. The apostle cared for these, “like a mother caring for her little children….” in verse seven and as “…a father deals with his own children….” Paul did this, not for personal interest, but for one unselfish outcome as verse 12 gives his purpose: “…so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” This objective was contingent upon how they received God’s word and God’s ministers.
The kind of people that occupy church leadership is critical to the health of a congregation. As we discussed last week, we want people who have a deep love for others, as well as a deep love for the truth! We were reminded last week of what Jesus said in John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But the call to be people of TLC is upon all of us. There are many TLC verses in the Bible. I’d like to share just a few with you. How about Hebrews 10:24: “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Or Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Or how about Hebrews 13:16: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
What is the product and result of this love and ministry? It had a common goal which was that all who believed should be walking the same path and headed in the same direction, which is spiritual maturity.
But how is that fleshed out? It is only the church, or close friends that take the time to visit you when you are in the hospital or give you a meal when life throws you a curve. Or it’s only a brother in Christ that knows you’ve been out of work and gives you a lead. Or it is only a loving church member who knows that your teen is giving you fits and lends you some timely advice or a word of encouragement: “Don’t give up.” We enjoy an uncommon affection that is much like familial or brotherly love. My father had an uncle who wanted him to always feel welcome to come and visit. He would say: John, come and see us. You’re always welcome at our home. You’ll keep warm and have plenty to eat.” Likewise the church is a welcoming place, in which we also care for one another in times of need.
Should churches be places of TLC? For instance notice the following statements that were made by church members. One person, struggling with cancer, said: “I know that the months ahead are going to be challenging, and we feel blessed to be part of such a caring church community.” And another who is dealing with aging and ill parents: “Please be assured that even if you don’t see me on Sundays, my church friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers, and as many of my friends also are in the predicament my family now faces, we draw strength from each other, and share our experiences—good and bad.” And lastly, some of you may remember Jeanne Klein, who was one of our church secretaries here at Central. Jeanne was a generous person and there were those who were generous with Jeanne. Before she passed away last year, she penned a note to thank the anonymous person who helped her many times. I read it with her family’s permission. Her letter read some thing like this: “I can’t tell you how much it blessed me to open the Christmas card and discover your generous money gift. I felt ashamed as I wanted to give, rather than receive. Your gift came at a very critical time, as I’ve been visiting doctors lately. The treatment which I needed was not covered by Medicare. Needless to say, your gift came at just the right time. I am blessed that you are among us. You are a living example of Hebrews 13:16. I pray that the good you do, will come back to you. With Much Love and Appreciation, Jeanne Klein.”
Encouragement, love, and support. These are the small things that make the church different than the world, because we serve a great God and Savior. We treat visitors and how we treat one another lovingly because of how Christ has treated us. The Scriptures say. “We love, because He first loved us.” Let us pray.