Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians in the first letter.  Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Paul is the one who made famous the wonderful triad of faith and hope and love.  His hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13 is said by many to be some of the greatest literature ever penned.  These three things abide, faith hope and love but the greatest is love.  These three things are so active and visible among the Thessalonians that Paul says they became a model.

I said on Sunday that I did not like the word model because someone called me a model Pastor one time. When I sat up straighter in my chair, he said that means “you are a small imitation of the real thing.  The word used here for model comes from the image or mark that is left behind when something is repeatedly struck.  The impression left behind when something is forcibly stamped, like a coin, is the image here.  They were struck with persecution, physically assaulted, taken to court, economically blackmailed and generally smacked around because of the Gospel and the trust they had in Christ.  The impression all this turmoil left witnesses was that the Thessalonian Christians were an example of how Christians should live and how their faith and witness and confession should be “lived”.

The Thessalonians were surrounded by functional atheists and they were the brunt of attacks at every level and yet they worked and labored and loved to the point that many historians have called them a “working church”.  That is a good word and a fine epitaph.