It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:7-8 ESV)
Yesterday we read a verse in which Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi. In today’s passage we see that he was likewise encouraged by them.
People don’t normally want to be connected with someone who is in prison, as Paul was when he wrote this letter. This was especially true back in the first century when Christianity was just getting started and was not accepted. This new movement (which was not called Christianity at the time but was called “The Way”) faced many hostilities from those who were not familiar with it. We read about the hostility towards Paul in Philippi in the introduction to our study of Philippians [Acts 16]. Anyone associated with a member of “The Way” could easily be targeted by its enemies as well (i.e. guilt by association).
But despite the stigma of having a close friend in prison on charges that could lead to his execution, the Philippians did not abandon Paul. They stood by him while he was in Philippi (where he was previously imprisoned a decade earlier) and also during his current imprisonment in Rome. For this Paul was very thankful.
Paul’s response to their affection was to express his affection back. There was true love between Paul and his friends in Philippi. He cared about them and they cared about him. Notice that Paul expressed his feelings about them to them in writing. He didn’t just assume they knew how he felt. Its important to let others know how we feel about them and how important they are to us. Such words are very encouraging.
The mutual affection and encouragement we read jumping off the page of Paul’s letter is exactly what a church should be. Believers should care about each other the way Paul and the Philippians cared about each other. Even though they were hundreds of miles apart with no means of communication other than the slow process of sending a written letter, they were on each other’s heart.
God displayed His affection for us through Jesus. And He wants us to have the same affection towards our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. This means we should build each other up with encouraging words. We should also be praying for believers in other countries that we don’t even know, especially those who are facing persecution for their beliefs.
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