Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
(Philippians 4:1 ESV)
Since (“Therefore”) Paul’s audience – which are believers in Jesus Christ – are citizens of heaven awaiting Christ’s return to this earth, he has some advice for us while we are still here.
But notice that, just as he did in Philippians 2:12-13, Paul first expresses his love for the people of Philippi. He calls them “brothers” and his “joy”. Twice in this one verse he tells them that they are loved (“whom I love”… “my beloved”).
The Greek word for “brothers” is αδελπηοσ (pronounced: ad-el-fos’). This is the word from which we get the name of the city Philadelphia (city of brotherly love). This word was used to describe people who were not necessarily related but who shared a common bond.
The word translated “love” and “beloved” is αγαπετοσ (pronounced: ag-ap-ay-tos’) which is derived from the Greek word “agape”. It connotates an unconditional love that is not based on performance of the recipient but rather on the character of the giver. By using this word Paul is reminding the Philippians that he loves them deeply, even when they might not be behaving as they should.
This is exactly the same way that God loves His children. God’s love is not based on our performance. God loves us because He cannot help Himself – that is who He is [1 John 4:8]. The Greek word for love in 1 John 4:8 is also “agape”. God is unconditional love.
Since God is unconditional love there is nothing we can do to earn His love. There is nothing we can do that could cause Him to love us less. He loves us simply because it is His nature to do so.
The ultimate depiction of this was God going to the cross to pay for our sins [Romans 5:8]. Our sinfulness did not cause God to love us less. It caused God to express His love even more [John 3:16; 1 John 4:9]. Love wants the best for others and does not take into account past mistakes [1 Corinthians 13:4-7].
Likewise, we should love the people in our lives unconditionally, no matter what they have done. We should also tell these people they are loved, as Paul does in this letter. Knowing that you are loved by your spouse, or parents, or mentor (e.g Paul) no matter what is a great comfort.
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