It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1.7-8
I. Confidence in the Gospel:
Paul closes out the welcome of his letter by continuing his conversation about his love and affection for the people in the Philippian church.
Throughout these first verses Paul has repeatedly expressed love and affection for these people. There are few things that would bond Paul to these people by our modern day standards for friendship.
In his sermon “A Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Lonliness,” Mark Driscoll talks about relationships today usually being based on two things: affinity and location. We are friends with people because we are in the same place as us or they like the same things as us. This sort of friendship is based on shallow things that do not last the test of time or trials. When people move or activities change, our friendships end. There are simply not many lasting, abiding relationships around today. In our consumer society, all things are expendable. Love is not a commitment—it’s equated with personal feelings of happiness and contentment.
Paul and the people of Philippi had little in common on the surface. Paul was a single Jewish man; most of the Philippians were married Gentiles. Paul was a tentmaker by trade; most of the Philippians were merchants and soldiers. From the lists of converts given, women were most likely a majority in this church. Paul was in jail in Rome; the Philippians were free in their province. There were few things in their lives that would have brought them together in deep relationship. Yet this congregation seems to have had one of the closest relationships with Paul of any of the churches he planted. Why is this?
It’s because their relationships were not based on affinity or location. They had nothing in common and they were not in the same place, yet their friendship and love for one another stood the tests of time and location. This is all because their relationships were built on something more solid than a shared love for a football team or a hobby: they recognized that their love for one another was grounded in the self-sacrificial love of Christ.
This is a situation that makes itself known in our lives today. We live in such a transient society that it is rare for people to stay in the same place for long. I have moved around quite a bit in the last few years, and my lasting friendships have become very precious to me. Those who I keep in contact with regardless of where I live are the friends I treasure most because I know the relationships have deep roots and are based on something more than just convenience.
Paul proclaims to them in verse seven that regardless of the situation in which he finds himself, he holds them in high regard. To Paul, these people are his brothers and sisters, co-members of the body of Christ. They are family, a part of his very body, and no situation can really remove someone from a family. Why does he feel this way about them? The answer is back in verse 5: he is confident in his affection for them because of their partnership. He doesn’t love them because they have spouted out empty words of love and affection to him. He is confident in their actions.
Christian love and partnership in the Gospel is defined by our actions, not our words.
How do you show love for the body of Christ?
Paul says in verse 8 that God Himself knows how genuine Paul’s love is for them. The word translated “affection” refers to the innermost parts of a person. Scholars tell us this is the strongest word in the Greek language to indicate compassion and affection. Paul loved the Philippians with the deepest love possible, and this is how we are to love one another. Already in this letter, Paul has emphasized over and over again the love that passes between him and the congregation, and he tells them repeatedly that he is confident of their partnership in the Gospel because of their active love for one another.
All of this sent me again to think about how I show my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Do I have fellow believers in my heart? Do I reflect Christ in such a way that people would want to keep me in their hearts? What does the affection of Christ look like practically?
Please post your suggestions of practical ways we can show the affection of Christ to those around us!