I cannot read the New Testament without the view of the unity and closeness of the church family in mind. This is where my mind always goes these days as I read these texts.
And here it is again. Listen to Paul’s love for the church: “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more …”
Can you sense Paul’s affection for the church in Philippi?
You can read about how the church was planted there in Acts 16. A small church got started at the riverside. The townsfolk persecuted Paul. Paul and Silas landed in prison and then were freed by a miraculous earthquake. Only they didn’t go free. Instead, they baptized the jailer. And then the city officials apologized to Paul and escorted him out of town.
Paul didn’t need to recount that history to the church in Philippi. They knew it all too well. Instead, Paul wrote to them from his Roman imprisonment, and he said, “I hold you in my heart.”
He loved those Christians in Philippi! I wonder if he ever got lonely, chained to a soldier in Rome, unable to move about and preach the gospel as he would like. I wonder if anxiety, even if briefly, ever rattled Paul’s mind. I wonder if he was slowly coming to terms with the fact his ministry on earth was nearly over.
And he longed for the church in Philippi, for those heady days of preaching the gospel and seeing lives turned upside down for the sake of Christ. And he wrote to the church there, “I hold you in my heart.”
Perhaps the take-away for us might be to consider our own feelings toward our church family. How much do we love these people? Does the thought of them spur anything close to the same kind of emotions that Paul clearly felt toward the church in Philippi?
Certainly, the circumstances are different for us. We aren’t separated from each other like Paul was from the Philippians. And we aren’t in jail facing a possible death sentence. Our emotions likely aren’t running on such high octane as Paul’s must have been.
But still … “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy …”
It is worth considering.