11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus guide us on our way back to you. 12 May the Lord cause you to increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone in the same way as we also love you. 13 May the love cause your hearts to be strengthened, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his people. Amen.
When the apostle Paul wrote (or dictated) this letter, he did not pause after the word “Amen” and say, “Chapter 4.” “The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227.”* When Paul prayed for God’s love that is “blameless in holiness,” he was likely preparing the way for the counsel he’d give in “chapter 4” about pure and impure ways to express physical love.
Lord God, in one short prayer Paul asked you to guide his current travel plans and to keep his people holy to stand blameless before you at the end of time. Remind me to include all my life in my prayers, too. Amen.
* From gotquestions.org.
** William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 197.
“May the Lord cause you to increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone. . .” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
The longer I live, the more mysterious love becomes. Mysterious in the sense that love is not something I can create or make happen. Neither is it something I can destroy or make disappear. Verse 12, calling on God “to increase and enrich your love,” helps me see more clearly the mechanics of loving others, how it works.
For a lot of my life, I’ve thought that, in order to love others, I just have to try harder to be loving, to somehow summon all the molecules of love that I can and then direct them toward others.
But 1 Thessalonians reminds me that’s not how it works. Love doesn’t come from me, it comes from God. It’s not something I summon, it’s something I receive. God is love, a Love greater than my own, a Love that encompasses all things, that creates all things and is redeeming all things. When I can understand myself as part of that Divine Love, then it flows into me, through me and out to others.
The first step of loving others, then, is to stay open and receive God’s love. Only God can pour love into my life, “increasing and enriching” love within me. If we neglect this openness, our ability to love others will be anemic.
Being attentive, mindful of this Great Love requires that I expect it, look for it, notice and savor it. We can train our “eyes to see and ears to hear” this Love in each encounter, each person, each moment. This is a mysteriously self-reinforcing cycle of love. As I allow God’s love to dwell in me, it overflows in my love for others. In turn, as that love increases in me, it is easier for me to see God’s love throughout the day, allowing it to abide in me.
Daily practices can cultivate this posture. Christian mindfulness is one of them. Set a timer to ring at three different times today. When you hear it, pause for a moment, take 2 or 3 slow, attentive breaths and be mindful of God’s Love that is being poured into you in that moment. Then proceed with your day. See what happens!
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