Early in my teaching career I developed the habit of calling my students “my kids.” I still do it now that I am older and no longer that teacher who is “easy to relate to.” Every now and then I will be talking about “my kids” and they have to clarify whether I mean my two sons or my 100 students. All of the effective teachers I know allow themselves to develop a deep care for their students, albeit expressed in a variety of ways.
I hear Paul saying the same sort of thing in this chapter:
We were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her own children. We were so devoted to you that we gladly intended to share with you not only the gospel of God but our own lives, because you became so dear to us. (2:8)
It was a common practice in the ancient world that upperclass families would employ the services of a wet nurse to care for their children. Like modern nanny situations, this is just a job one does to care for themselves. But also like many modern nanny situations, love and care would develop between the wet nurse and the children.
Paul says he allowed himself to develop that love and concern for the Thessalonians. They weren’t just another stop on a long missionary journey. They weren’t just another notch in his “gospel belt.” He didn’t just turn them into a few free meals as he passed through town (as it seems his opponents were accusing him of doing). They became to him like his own children.
If we are ever going to be successful spreading the gospel, we will have to develop the same heart that Paul had. We will have to do more than just share words and a message. We will have to share our very lives with others.