“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.” Philippians 1:9-10 The Message by Eugene Peterson
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi begins with the heartwarming phrase, “I thank my God every time I remember you . . . ” (Phil. 1:3) Who do you love in that way? Who are the ones in your life that make life good? Who are the ones in your life that give you peace and hope when they come to mind? Odds are they are the ones who have endured this life with you for some time. They are persons — family and friends — who have been there for you, and you there for them. This is no fleeting romantic love of which Paul speaks.
There are many kinds of love; we all know that. But, there is a special kind of love Paul is affirming in the people of Philippi — a love found in community. These are the people who prayed for him while he was in prison. In fact, part of the reason for the letter is that Epaphroditus, a member of the congregation, is returning to Philippi after bringing Paul a gift from the church. In those days, there was no email or postal service. You had to have someone physically carry a letter for you personally. The visit gives Paul a carrier to send a letter back home with Epaphroditus, and he takes advantage of this to show his appreciation.
I can remember a time when I didn’t think much of getting a card in the mail. I always liked contact and conversation better. But, then I began a period in life that had far more loss in it than I expected. When a parent dies, or a sister or brother, there is a void created. Most of us have come to know the grief process is very real and takes the time it takes. I can remember the mail box swelling with sympathy cards in the immediate aftermath of death, and then subsiding as the days went by. It struck me how much caring was involved in each card. In each instance, someone cared enough to feel sorrow for me. They took the time to go through so many lousy cards to find a good one. They took time to write their words of love and support. They had to track down my address, get a stamp, prepare the envelope, and get it into the mail. For me, such actions fit Paul’s prayer quoted above that “…you will not only love much but well.”
This world does, indeed, need to “learn to love appropriately,” as Paul says, with a love that is “sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.” Sincere and intelligent love reaches out to one like Paul who is enduring imprisonment for what he believed. Sincere and intelligent love responds to acts of kindness as did Paul in responding to the Philippians’ gift. Sincere and intelligent love lives in right relationship to others — the closest of loved ones and the most remote of strangers. This is the love that was embodied in the life of Jesus, and it is the only answer any intelligent being will ever find for how we will make this world right.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I give thanks every time I remember you and the love you sent in your son, Jesus. Amen.
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
Dean of Cabinet