by Joel Lawler
Philippians 1:9-11 (The Message Translation)
"So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God."
The above passage was taken from a letter that the Apostle Paul had written to a church in the city of Philippi. The overall theme of the entire letter is finding joy despite the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
He had every reason not to be very happy. He was thrown into prison for his faith. It must have been extremely difficult to have been in the midst of seeing the results of his hard work only to be taken away and imprisoned.
His calling was to spread the good news of Jesus, the Son of God, coming to earth, living out his life amongst us, dying for our sins and be raised from the dead. The story was being told and lives were being changed. A great movement was rising and he was sitting in a prison cell far from the people that he loved and ministered to.
I would have a difficult time feeling a whole lot of joy if I were in his shoes. I am almost certain that he had to wonder why God had removed him from his preaching and teaching and allowed him to be incarcerated.
Although it did not make sense at the time, we now see how God used this time in Paul's life for our benefit. The letters that he wrote are now part of our scriptures. If he could have been there in person we might not have left his messages to the churches in text form.
Paul was passionate about the churches that he fathered. In the above scripture he is praying for them. He wants them to be close to God and to be good representatives of their heavenly father.
His prayer is that their love would grow. Not only broaden but become stronger. He wants them to "love well". Paul desires that they have a love that is not just words or feelings but the kind of love that brings about change. He wants this church to live lives that are attractive to others so that the message of what Jesus did for us will not only be spoken but acted out in their daily routines.
Paul's message carries credibility in that he was leading by example. He was demonstrating his love towards them by writing this letter in the midst of his own suffering. I am sure his feelings would have dictated that he seclude himself but his love for them was sincere and transcended his own interests.
True love is contagious. It will reproduce itself in the recipient who then will pass it on as it was passed to them. This letter has been translated into almost every language and is a part of the best selling book in the history of the world. Genuine love has the same resilience and potency as these letters that have been our scriptures since their writing. It will persevere and change the course of history.