Saturday, April 15, 2023



“Hey you!?” chortled the pug-faced kid as he engaged me in the middle school hallway of the Wadena Jr. High School, “Remember when I beat you up? Huh huh huh…”

“NO! I don’t!” I aggressively retorted.  Though truth be told, I did remember. That is to say, I remembered the event…however…this ignorant clown was indeed mistaken.  I was not the young elementary school student who he had, ‘beaten up’…it was my brother.   

I stepped into his personal comfort zone and looked down on his forehead.  “That wasn’t me,” I exclaimed as I puffed out my middle school chest, “It was my brother!”

The event had taken place about 5 years earlier.  My older brother and I had walked to the park from my grandmother’s house on one Saturday afternoon.  We had not been there very long when the skirmish broke out.  To this day, I have no idea what caused the row, nor does my brother.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  Suddenly Scott and his thugs appeared on the grounds and confronted my brother and began pushing him around.  Don’t get me wrong…I had done my share of bullying my older brother.  In fact, I was well known in the family to exert my will and authority upon all of my siblings.  I was the largest and most aggressive of my parents’ 4 offspring, and so I took advantage of both and bullied my way into the superior rank of sibling rivalries.  I even relished their suffering. It was not unusual for me to push my older brother around even to the point, though seldom, in the throwing of punches. 

At this moment, I suddenly found myself no longer ok with the abuse of my brother…at least from the hands of Scott.  Immediately, I began to hustle to the conflict only to be restrained by Thug 1. His strong arms wrapped around my chest and squeezed me from behind while Thug 2 gave me a threatening sneer and, minimally, toothy smile.  As my chest struggled for air and my arms yearned for freedom, it was the grief in my heart that weighed heaviest as I watched the suffrage of my brother under the authority of Scott. 

Finally, Scott released his torturous headlock from my brother, but only after several cries of “Uncle!”

My brother and I walked back to my grandmother’s house with our proverbial tails between our legs.  The only real bright spot was that my mother wouldn’t be mad at me because it wasn’t my clothes that were covered with dirt and grass stains.   

It is in this transformational experience that I see a parallel to Paul’s experience with the church in Thessalonica.  While Paul is in Athens, Timothy brings back a report of the incredible love…brotherly love…family love that the Thessalonians have for each other. 

The Church is the Body of Christ…it is a family.  Certainly in every family, there are conflicts.  Unfortunately, many of these conflicts do not result in a strengthening of the body.  Rather, they cut down, discourage and destroy the church family from within.  Yet, as the old adage states, “blood runs thicker than water,” and even in the most difficult times it is the family that sticks together and endures. 

I believe that it is this latter depiction that Paul esteems within the church in Thessalonica.  In 1 Thess. 1:4, Paul refers to them as brothers, and as children, mothers and fathers in chapter 2, vs. 7-11.  It is obvious that Paul believes that the church is to be a family. 

Paul, then, describes how this family is to love and interact and support one another as a testimony of the Lord’s grace in 1 Thess. 2:17-3:13.  It is this incredibly humble and challenging image that I desire to be a part of.

May we come to love the Church as Christ loves the Church…it is the family of God!

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