Minutes after my wife Jane and I pulled into the driveway of the church parsonage in our rental van loaded with all our worldly possessions, church members appeared to help unload it. I remember seeing their faces for the first time. They were all strangers to me. But nine years later, when I left the church to join the faculty of Moody Bible Institute, I knew them all, and we said goodbye to each other with tears.
Sharing life together builds strong feelings. Paul and the Philippians had more than life experience in common. In verse 7, the apostle says they “share in God’s grace” in his chains and in his defense and proclamation of the gospel. Although not physically in prison with him, they were as committed to Paul as he was to them.
But the strong affection that Paul describes in today’s passage also springs from an additional source. Ultimately, it was an extension of Christ’s love. The ability to love one another in the church is a work of grace. The longing Paul felt for the Philippians originated with God. The affection he felt for them was “the affection of Christ Jesus” (v. 8). Getting along with one another in the church takes more than willpower. It does require effort. Ephesians 4:3 tells us: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” But in the end, the mutual affection that Paul describes is a work of God.
Note that the bond between Paul and the Philippians was not due to shared interests. It was not because they had the same hobbies or liked the same music. They were knit together by a shared gospel. Christ knits together those who would otherwise have nothing in common.
>> It takes Jesus to make a loving and unified church. Are you having trouble loving others? Ask Jesus to remind you of what binds you together and to show you a practical way to extend His love to others.
We praise You, Lord, for Your inexhaustible love. Fill us with Your love in our relationships—love that endures being tested, forgives being wronged, and rejoices in self-sacrifice.