Labor of Love

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The Thessalonians work of faith was accompanied by their “labor of love.” Some things can only be described as a labor of love. The phrase “labor of love” is generally used to describe some hard and tedious work that is largely unrewarded. The Thessalonians work was hard, but it comes with a great reward.

The word “labor” (κόπου) is defined as “to engage in activity that is burdensome.”[1] Paul described his own work as “in toil (κόπῳ) and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:27). The Thessalonians remembered Paul’s “labor and toil” as they “worked night and day” (1 Thess. 2:9).

The CSB helps us to see the motivation of such work as they translate the phrase, “your labor motivated by love.” God’s love is why we work. 1 John 4:19 says, “we love because he first loved us.” Just as the nature of God is the reason for all creation, the love God has for us moves us to act in his service for his glory. “God’s unconditional love poured out in our heart is a unique force impelling us to love him (Rom 5:5) and others and to express such love concretely (1 Jn 3:14–8). Genuine faith and love produce works, without which people cannot say they have authentic faith and love.”[2]

The love of God in us is always going to be manifested in real and visible ways. When Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians, he began again by praising their increasing love for one another (2 Thess. 1:3). John described the very real and very visible manifestation of God’s love which is to be reflected in the lives of Christians when he wrote, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn. 4:10-12). Just as creation continues at the word of Christ, this visible and increasing love for God and for brethren must be our continual pursuit.

            [1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 558.

[2] G. K. Beale, 1–2 Thessalonians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 47.

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