It’s strange how much people pay attention when you talk about sex, but how uninterested people are when we speak of love. I suppose it has something to do with the very sensory nature of sex and how we at the very least minimize the emotional connection involved.
But I wonder if this enormous preference for sex rather than love comes from an innate sense that love is a lot more work. It requires putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own, valuing another more than self. I suppose that is, in the arena of sexuality, the difference between engaging in sexual intercourse and, as the raggedly mis-used term goes, making love. One is focused upon self, the other upon the partner.
When we zoom out a little bit and apply this idea of love being the placing of the needs of others above our own in the broader sense of a more brotherly love, we begin to see where Paul was headed in his letter, 1 Thessalonians.
After challenging his readers to keep their sexuality in the proper context and reminding them that their appetites did not affect only themselves, Paul moves out to the broader idea:
“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,” (1 Thess 4.9-10).
The apostle has commended the Thessalonian believers for their faith and care and perseverance. They have indeed grown in their willingness and determination to care for others as they have been, as Paul plainly says, “taught by God to love one another.”
But notice that last statement: “But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more.” It’s interesting, I think, that he says “more and more.” It seems he is implying that this is to be a continuing journey of growth in this most important of dimensions.
In other words, he is telling them, “Keep doing it—more and more and more without letting up.”
So, if we look at this passage in the context of this letter, Paul has challenged them (and us, of course) to continue to grow and lean into God’s transforming work. He writes of the gravity of our sexuality and how important it is that this appetite be kept in its place. He even warns about the collateral damage that can occur when we fail to do so. He then reminded us that these instructions and warnings are not from him, but from God.
Then he ties back into the way that this family of faith has been living out their genuine love for one another and others around them, but he and his team urge them to love more and more.
This urge of love—without letting up, always more, never less—is Paul’s mandate… for the believers in Thessalonica and for you and me.
Father, I hear in these words the urge of love. Teach me, move me, and empower me to do so more and more.