Gospel ministers are, at times, characterised as strident and harsh propagandists who promote their cause but do not care for people. That is not true gospel ministry. The apostle used his own example to demonstrate the normal way in which God's servants should treat the people they are sent to serve (1 Peter 5:1-3). Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), and was a distinctive mark of Christ's ministry (Acts 10:38).
A mother's love is invaluable to her children. She cares for them more than for herself and will sacrifice anything for them. That was the heart of the apostle: "… So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well…" (2 Corinthians 12:14-15). The gospel was a message which motivated the apostolic lifestyle, demonstrating the life of Christ, which would become the new normality for all who would believe.
Paul and his team did not want anything from those to whom they preached, except that they would embrace their message and their Saviour. Humanly, the messengers got nothing out of it except a lot of trouble (2 Corinthians 11:23-29); they did not even ask for expenses to be reimbursed. Their motivation was not what they could get but what they had already received from Jesus: love, forgiveness, peace with God and the privilege of serving Him.
That model of gospel ministry, 'proclaiming truth while expressing love', is still the authentic way of winning people to Jesus. Yet so many who would like to serve the Lord are mesmerised by money, and some see their flock as their food. It is important to be responsibly grateful for ministry we have received (1 Timothy 5:17-18), but that should never be demanded. Instead, the pattern of Jesus in matching truth with grace (John 1:17) is continued today in authentic gospel ministry which speaks the truth in love while caring with tenderness and compassion. Wherever you are today, do not minimise or hide the gospel message; neither lose the tenderness of your Master.
© Dr Paul Adams