If you had to make a list of the qualities in your friends and church mates for which you are most thankful, what would top the list? If your friends and church mates were to make a list about you, what qualities do you think (or hope!) would top the list?
Did you know that in every letter Paul wrote – with the exceptions of 2 Corinthians, Galatians and the pastoral epistles – he tells the readers he rejoices over them and thanks God for them? And do you know what two characteristics he most often picks up on as reasons for special gratitude? What would you guess?
I’d never noticed this until I read all the introductions to Paul’s letters in a row. It’s amazing. Overwhelmingly, Paul says he rejoices because of the church’s faith and/or their love. God’s grace to them and partnership in the gospel both get mentioned once – but the overwhelming amount of times he’s grateful for their faith and their love.
Which made me think. If Paul had written to me, would he have been able to write, “The Apostle Paul to my sister Sarah. Sarah, I rejoice so much when I hear of your faith and your love.” Or would he be forced to say something about my attempts at impressive-sounding answers and good works?
And what about our churches? If Paul was writing to them, would he be able to say, “Dear First Street Methodist, I thank God over and over because of your expressions of faith and love. I’m drowning in gratitude when I think of them!” Or would he be trying to find kind words to say about your micro-managed doctrine or well-executed Sunday morning worship services?
Just made me think whether I’m succeeding at what is truly cause for celebration.
To see for yourself, check out Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:15-16, Philippians 1:3-4, Colossians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Philemon 1:4-5