“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,” ~1 Thess. 2:17
“Out of sight, out of mind.” That’s a statement too often true of me. But not Paul. He poured his heart into the church at Thessalonica and left a piece of it there when he had to leave. I wish that were and need that to be more true in my life–to go all in with ministry.
We are a protectionist culture inside and outside the church. We guard our hearts from both evil and good (or so we say of the former), and we succeed. As C.S. Lewis (I think) said, we end up with a rotting, stale, and hard heart, safe within our risk-less box.
And I’ll be honest: I don’t want to get hurt. If I want to ask someone out on a date, I go into it trying to bless the other person but also expecting a “no”. That’s not all bad, but what am I losing by keeping my heart off the line? How much more so with the body of Christ and service? If I give my heart for the kingdom of God, even in disappointment, I’ll be in good fellowship with believers and saints who went before me.
Read through the epistles. See Paul’s appeals. He was shocked by the sin tolerated in Corinth and spoke as one present in spirit that they might be sanctified (1 Cor. 5). The Galatians put him in anguish over their abandonment of the true gospel (Gal. 1). Paul warred alongside the Ephesians as together they strapped on the armor of God (Eph. 6). And we could go on…
The point is that Paul had to be “torn away” from those he loved and served with, and when absent, he didn’t forget them. He prayed for them. He encouraged them. He praised God for them (or else exhorted them to a praiseworthy state).
Lord, give me an engaging heart, safe in Your hands, yet always on the line for Your work. Amen.