There are some patterns you can observe among members of a family. My wife and I met in band in college. My kids have all been active in band in school and it would appear that a few of them have even met their match in band. It’s just part of who we are.
My boys go places often to have people say, “You’re a Peercy, aren’t you?” They look a lot alike. They do some similar things. That’s kind of how families are.
As Paul wrote his first letter to the church in the city of Thessalonica, he spoke of the way they were raised in the faith through relationships (check that out here). He wrote of how they recognized the message Paul and his team brought as being from God (read that here). But then he spoke again of them being “imitators.”
“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,…”1 Thessalonians 2.14
As Paul and his team had spent time there nurturing, training, and strengthening these young believers, it seems he had spoken with them of the great persecution that the churches in Judea had been going through. Perhaps he even shared, voice quivering with regret, how he held the coats of the men who stoned to death the faithful Stephen (Acts 7.54-60).
Having been challenged to be steadfast in their faith despite the trials by the example of the churches in Judea, this church in Thessalonica built their resolve to see this journey of faith through to the end.
Paul observes that his readers had experienced the same kind of persecution as their sister churches in Judea had been experiencing. In verses 15-16 he wrote of the kind of hindrance that the Jewish leaders had been to the furtherance of the gospel, though he assures them that God’s wrath for those that would hinder his divine purposes is indeed sure.
Those churches in Judea were family. They had similar patterns, similar appearances, though not identical. Those sister churches were beautiful examples of faithfulness amidst the conflict.
So Paul says, in a sense, “You have endured and pressed on, just like your sisters.”
“Just like your sisters…” can be a hard thing to swallow for a young lady. It might mean that she makes the same foolish mistakes or has the same undesirable habit or trait. But Paul the apostle, who writes of the church like a big brother that has been charged with bringing his sister to present her as a bride to her groom, writes with a deep joy and affection to this young church.
You’re beautiful—just like your sisters.
I wonder, do people see the family resemblance in us and our ways? Or are they distracted by the family feuds?
Do people know us for our extravagant grace? Or are they troubled by our jealousy and pettiness?
If they compare our church with those flawed but enduring examples in the New Testament, could they say to us, “You look just like your sisters?”