Ἡμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἀπορφανισθέντες ἀφʼ ὑμῶν πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας, προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ, περισσοτέρως ἐσπουδάσαμεν τὸ πρόσωπον ὑμῶν ἰδεῖν ἐν πολλῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ.
But we, brothers, having been torn away from you for a very short time, in person but not in heart, to a much greater degree we have made every effort, with much longing, to see you.
In these verses Paul (with Silas and Timothy) is writing to the Thessalonians, whom he was forced to abandon prematurely due to persecution from religious zealots and some loitering "wicked men"(Acts 17:5-10). Paul, who viewed the perseverance of his disciples as his confidence before the Lord (I Thess. 2:19-20), was forced to leave Thessaloniki before he was sure that they would be able to make it on their own. The word translated here "being torn away" stems from a verb most often used to describe children who have been abandoned by parents or parents who have been bereaved of children. While it is difficult to translate these words into English, "torn away" seems to be the scholarly concession.
In my years as a Christian, I have seen more than a few traveling evangelists come and go. Some of them took the time to invest in the people they led to Christ (even if only through post-conversion correspondence), while others seemed to glide from place to place, two inches off of the ground, and without touching anything or anyone. How important is discipleship? How much time and effort should we devote to it? Well, if we follow the example of Paul, we will feel bereaved if we leave too soon. I have felt this bereavement because I have not always been obedient. How about you?
Resources used for this post
BDAG and NIGTC (Wanamaker)