If you love someone...

When God's values humble us, there's only one response.

Huw Williams | 22:22, Thursday 5 November 2015 | Turin, Italy

It is not a what we would call a normal way of thinking, but nevertheless there it was, right in front of us, in black and white. Our Wednesday evening Bible studies had got as far as Philippians 2:19-30, and I was wondering, like everyone else in the room, why I hadn't noticed those two bold 'therefores' in verses 23 and 28. Timothy and Epaphroditus get one each - but only after Paul has made it clear how highly he values their friendship and ministry. It is remarkable how someone in a Roman prison with such helpful and loyal friends close by can use these 'therefores' so freely and without the need to explain.

...there it was, right in front of us, in black and white

It is because Paul has no-one else like Timothy, who genuinely looks out for the interests of Christ and others before his own, because Timothy has served alongside Paul as a son alongside his father in the family business that the therefore is there - "I hope, therefore, to send him..." (v23)

It is because Epaphroditus is Paul's brother, fellow-worker and fellow soldier, it is because he shares Timothy's concern for others that the therefore returns - "Therefore I am all the more eager to send him..." (v29)

To Paul it is so obvious that it requires no explicit explanation - because you have someone you love, someone who is useful, encouraging, a blessing in their sharing of Christ's heart for others, therefore you send them to bless others. And yet it had us all scratching our heads with wonder and surprise - don't we keep these kind of friends near us, not only if we are in prison, but aren't these the people we look to keep in our churches and mission teams? After all, that would be the best strategy, wouldn't it?

Not to Paul apparently. His strategy seems to be entirely different and yet gloriously reflecting the perfect pattern coming down to us from the God Himself. The clues are there all along if we eyes to see them in Philippians, one only has to look at the first half of chapter 2 to see where Paul's heart is.

Is it stretching the point to say that it is because the Father loves the Son that he sends Him to save us? I don't think so, because the love of the Godhead never has been something God has kept to Himself, but God's love has always been overflowing to others in outward-facing blessing. It certainly isn't stretching the point to say that because the Son loves the Father he gladly, willingly and joyfully submits to the Father and comes to save us.

Yet again we see God's wisdom and values turning human wisdom and values on their head. If we love someone, let's ask how we can send them.

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