1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children:…
There is a power in gentleness to subdue the mightiest opposition, and to triumph over the most gigantic difficulties. The gentle rays of the sun melt the ponderous iceberg more speedily than the rolling billows of an angry ocean; the silent action of the atmosphere wastes the rock which remains immovable under the strokes of the heaviest weapon. A look from Moses vanquished the calf idolatry of the Israelites which the fluent eloquence of Aaron had been powerless to resist; a calm, quiet word from Jesus paralyzed with fear the band of soldiers who came to arrest Him in Gethsemane. True gentleness is never weak. It is the tough, indestructible material out of which is formed the hero and the martyr. This quality was conspicuous in the preachers at Thessalonica.
I. IT WAS THE GENTLENESS OF PATIENT ENDURANCE.
1. It enabled them to bear the insult and outrage of their enemies. Their preaching roused violent opposition. They retaliated by praying for their persecutors. Against physical force they fought with moral weapons; and this attitude had a powerful influence on their adversaries. The modern preacher can adopt no better method. The offence of the Cross still stirs the enmity of the carnal mind. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive," etc. The power of a man is seen, not so much in what he can do as in what he can endure. It is only the Christian spirit that unites the utmost gentleness with the utmost strength.
2. It enabled them to bear with the weakness and imperfections of their converts — "As a nursing mother cherisheth her own children." They watched over them with the tenderest assiduity, instructed them with the most disinterested solicitude, accommodated themselves to their infant standpoint, with parental devotion. In order to successful teaching, in spiritual as in secular subjects, we must study the child nature. Take into account the influence of surroundings, early prejudices, capacity, temperament. See this illustrated in the Divine treatment of Israel under Moses, etc., and the intercourse of Jesus with the disciples.
II. IT WAS THE GENTLENESS OF SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE (ver. 8).
1. Their gentleness arose from a genuine love of souls. "Because ye were dear." Love is the power of the preacher. After this he toils with increasing earnestness as the years speed on; and it is the grace that comes latest into the soul. No amount of scholarship, exposition, or eloquence can atone for the absence of love. The fables of the ancients tell us of Amphion, who, with the music of his lyre, drew after him the huge stones with which the walls of Thebes were built; and of Orpheus, who, by his skill on the harp, could stay the course of rivers and tame the wildest animals. These are but exaggerated examples of the charm of love. "I have always been afraid," said a devoted young minister, "of driving my people away from the Saviour. I would rather err on the side of drawing them." John Fletcher once said, "Love, continual, universal, ardent love, is the soul of all the labour of a minister."
2. The intensity of their love awoke a spirit of voluntary self-sacrifice. "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing," etc. To accomplish the salvation of their hearers they were willing to surrender life itself. This was the temper of the Divine Preacher, who "came not to be ministered unto," etc. A similar spirit imbued the apostle when he met the weeping elders of Ephesus. The love of science nerves the voyager to brave the dangers of the Arctic ice, amid which many have found a crystal tomb; but a nobler love inspires the breast of the humble worker who cheerfully sacrifices all this world holds dear, to rescue men from woe.Lessons:
1. That gentleness is power, not only in patient endurance, but also in enterprising action.
2. That gentleness is indispensable to effectiveness, either in warning or reproof. It succeeds where a rigid austerity fails.
3. That gentleness is fostered and regulated by a deep, self-sacrificing love.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: