When you think of the apostle Paul, what kind of person do you think of? He is often portrayed as a fearless, strong and possibly, firm man that may have lacked a heart.
In 1 Thes. 2:7-12, Paul describes him in a different way. Notice what it says,
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
In addressing the readers, he reminds them that he treated them at times like a “mother” who “cares” for (literally it means, “cherishes” or “warms”) her children. This is implying the gentle loving care children often require. But, in addition, Paul describes himself as a “father” who exhorts, encourages and calls them up to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
Paul was not some gruff, authoritative apostle, but rather he loved his converts and treated them as we would our own children. He lovingly comforted and cared for them. He also was not afraid to call them “up” to a new standard of living that is in harmony with the high calling we have in God’s family.
How do we know this description of Paul is accurate? The readers saw him live out his faith before them. They were “witnesses” of his life and his model of hard work to meet his needs and also witnesses of his loving but challenging leadership style. Paul was “all in” and he expected the same of his converts because that is what Jesus expects (Lk. 9:23).
Father, thank you for the reminder that at times I need to function like a mother and father in relation to those you have given me to shepherd. I must stay balanced in this and not lean to one way at the expense of the other. Help me to shepherd well and model a hard work ethic like Paul did.
Following Jesus with you,