Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
The word “Therefore” connects what Paul is about to say with what he had just reminded the Philippians. Just as Jesus had carried out the will of God in His life, Paul exhorted the Philippians to seek and do the will of God in their lives. To this point, Paul will rebuke the Philippians for some behavioral problems they are having in the next few verses.
But before he does he adds “my beloved”, a term of endearment, to remind them that he loves them and what he is about to tell them is not meant to be harsh, although it may seem that way. This is a good reminder to us that we need to speak the truth to each other in love.
God does not call on us to ignore sin in our lives or in the lives of other believers. We are to confront it and help each other conquer it. But we must be motivated by love when we do so. Our motivation should not be to hold other people down or to esteem ourselves.
This is also true of the world around us. The world does not care about its sin. In fact, the world even celebrates many things that God calls sin (e.g. homosexuality), without even realizing that it is sin. They don’t realize that their behavior is only separating them from God. They need to be told so they can hopefully repent, believe, and go to heaven. It is the responsibility of God’s adopted children (i.e. born-again believers) to tell the world this. But we must do so lovingly.
Many years ago when I was an atheist I started my first job out of college. On my second day of work one of my coworkers – who had no idea that I was an atheist – came up to me and said “Do you know you’re going to hell?”. This was his way of evangelizing. While his statement was true (although I didn’t know it at the time), his unloving approach was not very effective in getting me to believe in God. In fact, it only made me even more sure of my atheism.
People need to know the truth. But the truth is only effective when it is wrapped in love. When truth is presented lovingly it will draw people closer. When it is presented without love it will push people away.
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