Sacrificial Love in Friendship
“I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.” - Philippians 2:20
It just makes sense that Paul would follow-up his instruction to “do everything without grumbling” that we looked at last week, with a more personal note about two of his most trusted co-workers.
We all need friends. We all need someone, in fact more than some one who will support, encourage, uphold and propel us forward in life and faith. Paul introduces two.
First, it’s Timothy. The same Timothy that Paul writes to with important instructions for leadership in the Early Church - the books of 1 & 2 Timothy that we have today. He explains to the Philippians that he wants to send Timothy back, partly because he knows that sending him to them means he’ll eventually return with news and updates of their lives. He also trusts Timothy explicitly, because of the care and compassion that Timothy has for them.
In Paul’s eyes, Timothy is rare. So many people are only in it for themselves, concerned about their own personal rights and well-being, but Timothy is concerned for theirs. Timothy exhibits the instruction Paul has just mentioned in last week’s passage (Philippians 2:12-17). And they are aware of it too. They’ve seen the way that Timothy exhibits the love of Christ for others.
It’s actually this care for others, namely Paul, that keeps Timothy from leaving quite yet. He still has some work to do, to get Paul situated once this next leg of his trial and sentencing is concluded. Once that happens, Paul will send him.
And then there’s Epaphroditus (Ee-PAFF-ro-DIE-tus). Where Paul spoke of Timothy like a son, Epaphroditus is described as a co-worker, maybe closer in age to Paul? He first thanks the Philippians for sending him to offer the care they couldn’t provide personally, but he admits that something had come up and he wants to send Ephaphroditus back to them. Paul explains that he nearly died - from a sickness or disease? We don’t know. But he has recovered enough to travel and Paul is eager to reunite them, for both the Philippians and for Ephaphroditus.
Here, Paul exhibits the kind of care and compassion for both, that he had earlier thanked Timothy and the Philippians for exhibiting. Would it be beneficial for Paul to have two helpers with him? I would imagine so! But would it benefit the Philippians and Epaphroditus to be reunited? Yes indeed! So Paul puts his care and concern for them ahead of his own in planning to send Ephaphroditus back to them. In fact, it’s possible that he is the one bearing this very letter. It’s possible that they were surprised to find him - alive and returned to them - which necessitated Paul’s explanation from his own lips.
This very personal section is a beautiful example of living out the fluid exchange of love between individuals and a community. “you decide… no you decide” - putting each other’s interests above our own is a constantly changing situation. You’ll remember Paul’s struggle “should I stay or should I go” where he eventually accepts that staying is a benefit for them, and that is his desire. Paul and Timothy, Epaphroditus and the Philippian church are loving and serving each other sacrificially, living out that same no-grumbling, sacrificial love that Jesus had exhibited.
That remains our mission today - what great examples we can draw from!
Welcoming You to Grow in Jesus,