The Power of Relationships (Theology for Living from Philippians)

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, 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.  (Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, verses 7 & 8 )

If Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, Paul left his in Philippi.  Paul can justify his confidence in the salvation of the Philippians by the powerful bond he developed with them as they labored together to make the good news of Jesus Christ known.  In that process they had together experienced persecution, but they had also together experienced God’s grace in their lives.  And now that Paul is in chains again, as he was in Philippi (see Acts 16), there is a sense in which the Philippians reside in his heart.

There is a power in relationships to encourage us, to make us motivated, to give us hope, and to fill our need to love and be loved.  And this is all the more true of our relationships with fellow followers of Jesus.  We are together in the most daunting and most important mission ever given to any human being.  We are charged with defending and confirming the gospel and suffering for it.  If we were in this alone it would certainly be nothing more than  a suicide mission.  But though it may result in death for us, our comradeship with one another in the battle brings a comfort and joy none can explain except for a God-given grace bestowed.

We need each other.  This is not an individual endeavor.  It is a team effort and requires a unity that is all too often missing in our fellowships, much as it was in the Philippian fellowship.  If we are missing this unity we are missing the needed encouragement and motivation to carry on the endeavor.  And we are missing the power we need, the power of a united front and the power of the witness that unity gives.  Paul had to remind this church of how he had experienced that power with them.

When we are working together, partners in the gospel instead of foes, there is an energy that becomes available to us that is otherwise missing.  Paul said it this way, “I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Paul knew how much Jesus loved the Philippians from two sources.  The first was the self-declaration of Jesus backed up by his sacrificial death on our behalf.  The second source was Paul’s own affection.  The affection he felt for the Philippians was actually Jesus’ affection for them.  Paul was in tune with Jesus and so he was in tune with what Jesus felt for this church.  Despite the conflict they were embroiled in, Jesus loved them.

Are you in tune with how Jesus feels toward the saints around you?  Toward your spouse, your children, your pastors, your fellow parishioners, your friends, relatives, co-workers, and enemies?  When you are you will feel the same way toward them.  You will not be able to help but feel that way.  Who are you loving and longing for with the affection of Christ Jesus?

For further study:

Lessons From the Old Testament: God’s Concern for Justice

Jesus Friend of Sinners

Lessons From the Old Testament: How Not to Counsel People in Pain

Lessons From the Old Testament: The Origin of Human Conflict

The Bible and Race Relations

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