Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9
7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. (NLT)
We can get very functional and even mechanical when it comes to sharing our Christian faith around the place. We tend to reduce it to a verbal formula and look for ways of dropping the formula into a conversation. Or we may think only in terms of doing good works so as to alleviate distress. Neither of these approaches is wrong in itself. We need words, we need works. But as Paul points out in this passage, we share our very lives.
Paul didn’t abuse his apostolic position by sponging off them. He didn’t tyrannise them with his knowledge and so become a bible bully. He wasn’t a preaching machine, emerging from splendid isolation merely to deliver weighty and orthodox talks. He gave himself, believing that this was part of giving the Christian message.
Giving our selves is more than just saying the right words or doing the right things. It is being ourselves in the presence of others: letting them see we are on a journey to Christian maturity and thus letting them see us as real people rather than other-worldly plaster saints. Being part of a church is about this sort of self-giving. We don’t just turn up for rostered duties (though that is a very basic mark of faithfulness). We don’t just use our God-given capabilities (though this is essential for a healthy church).
We offer our essential selves. Who we are, not just what we do, enriches the church, blesses others. No one is suggesting that our churches become mere arenas for the display of our personalities. We are meant to love God and others first of all. However, we do this by sharing the various dimensions of our life with others: our fears and hopes, our despair and delights. We are not merely functionaries who keep things ticking over. We are unique and loved individuals who give what we are to others. We are not only the givers, but we are also the gifts.