What does it truly mean to lose one’s life? What does it mean to follow Christ? How far do we have to go? What does it really mean to belong to and support community?
Paul describes this new way of life today in 1 Thessalonians: entrusted with the gospel and defending his motives. Paul does not act out of greed or trickery, but does all this to please God. In a sense, he too is speaking of abandoning his agenda for Christ’s. He demands action at times, but is gentle as well: “But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.”
This is the heart of the gospel. The good news is not just a message of Christ crucified, but one of Christian community. It is a belonging into the body of Christ, which continues Christ’s mission and has experienced a peace that goes beyond the grave, because death has been stamped out.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Benedictine spirituality. One of the central tenets is Christ in Community. It isn’t so much a question of what “God is telling me to do” as discovering how God is at work in each of us, and being guided and tested within the community to keep our hearts in check. This is why I love the Rule of St. Benedict, and why I am such a follower. So many of the popular “spiritualities” today are all “God and ME.” It is all about a personal relationship, when few of the biblical texts regard individuals. God is encountered in every aspect of life, personally as well as communally.
Here in our texts today this is especially true. And as we seek fidelity to the gospel, my prayer is that each of us can share our burdens and our joy, for in doing so, we will be tending gently to the flock, as Paul cared for the Thessalonians, and as God cares for us.
May your reflection lead you deeper today into an understanding of community, and the body of Christ.