“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” (I Thessalonians 1:1)
I am sitting here getting ready to write on this passage, and I have to wonder when the customer of starting letters with salutations came about. At first my curiosity did not extend far enough to do any actual research on it; but then I got more curious. And not find a concrete answer. In English they started in the 1300’s. For other languages, such as Greek, I do not know. It is nice to think that back in biblical times it was a nicety practiced by the religious and spiritually aware. More accurately, most probably, it was done to soften up the reader to be receptive to what is coming in the letter, or epistle.
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.” (Verses 2 – 5)
I have heard it said that before you criticize or correct someone, you should compliment them so as to set a pleasant and congenial atmosphere. With that in mind, one has to wonder what Paul will say some chapters into the book of I Thessalonians.
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.” (Verses 6 – 10)
People like getting compliments, and being praised. They like positive attention and support. Especially when the times are hard, soft and gentle words help the hard times pass. And if a corrective word needs to be given or spoken, a compliment helps the listener to understand that no harm is meant; but only to make better what has already been done well. As you can tell, Paul uses this “carrot and stick” approach. Admonitions and exhortations are prefaced with encouragement and commendations. He also, come to think of it, ends with commendations and encouragements. No wonder his epistles have come done through generations and generations of believers! May you, beloved reader, commend & encourage, exhort & admonish one another in appropriate portions. Shalom & Selah!