"For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment..." Philippians 1:7-9
OPINION ALERT: Apparently Paul had strong, emotional feelings towards his fellow believers. He had room for them in his heart. If it is right to have believers in his heart, why is it hard to believe Jesus can hold that same place of honor. For those who belittle the idea of a believer inviting Jesus into their heart, Paul carried in his heart "the affection of Christ Jesus." Jesus brought it with Him when He took up residence in Paul's heart. He will do the same, when you invite Him into yours. But I digress.
Paul describes his feeling in a way that makes most men cringe. It has become fashionable of late for men to man-up and avoid talking about their feelings, regarding their relationship to Christ. This may be a backlash to the full court press men have had to endure, being challenged to go full bore Oprah, or become Dr. Phil converts on every issue in their lives.
Tears flowing, voices squeaking, and spewing anguished apologies, men have taken to the talk show circuit or cable news networks to pour out their hearts on a number of male issues. It hasn't been pretty, nor has it been especially productive. Crocodile tears and insincere remorse rarely add up to genuine repentance, or a real turnaround.
In this passage, Paul reveals a great deal about himself, and provides a beautiful picture of the fiery fellowship that warmed the hearts of the members of the early church. The church was not a legion of heartless robots. The felt something for one another, but it was more than a feeling.
Paul was touched by the love of the saints. They were ordinary people filled with an extraordinary love for Jesus and for one another. They were not driven by a set of core values to engage their culture. They were not driven at all, just forgiven, completely. They never got over being forgiven, by the love of God poured out on them at The Cross. They were drawn first to Jesus, then to one another and on to a lost world, by "the affection of Christ."
The church is not a family because they happen to be tied together by a common bond or gathered together in one assembly. Tying the tails of a cat and a dog together can unite them, but it doesn't make them one. Warring armies face each other on the same battlefield, but a family reunion doesn't take place. Two gangs arriving on the same turf doesn't result in an expression of sweet fellowship. Get the picture?
The church is a family because believers have one Father, and God is love. The love of God is released into the heart of a believer, and it is expressed out of the believer as "the affection of Christ." This takes place when facts, faith and feeling all come together, and a person with a broken heart places all their pieces in the hands of Jesus. When He is invited to come into their heart and make all things new, the "affection of Christ" is pumped throughout their body, into the Body of Christ, and towards a world in need of a blood transfusion of Christ's love.
"It is amazing what God can do with a broken heart, if you give Him all the pieces." Samuel Chadwick
The difference in Paul is striking. In Acts he is a raging purist seeking to wipe out heresy, where ever he finds it. In prison, the love of God now pours out of him freely and openly on those he once tried to kill.
In Paul's life, the "affection of Christ" was not just a natural emotion. It was super-natural transformation. Paul didn't just feel differently, about believers, he acted differently towards them. But make no mistake about it, love for others involves feeling, and inspires an expression of that feeling to others.
There is always a tendency, within the family of God, to warn believers to avoid going off the deep end, especially where feelings or emotions are concerned. This is usually wise counsel. The other extreme should be avoided as well, and with all due diligence, GOING OFF THE SHALLOW END.
Cold-blooded, doctrinally pure theology without any warmth, feeling or emotion connected to it, may parse "agape" with precision and perfection. It may result in a death-defying church, but it doesn't always translate into a life-giving one. Paul had a keen mind, and a hot heart. Believers need both if the church is going to have a pulse, and wrap their arms around one another and the world.
Don't be deceived, the love of Jesus abounds in the pursuit of real knowledge and discernment. When Jesus taught the Scriptures to the couple on the Road to Emmaus, they had an encounter with The Word that set them on fire. Their perspective changed. Their heart was warmed. Their sense of direction was changed. They not only learned something. They felt something. They did something.
"And they said one to another, 'Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?' " Luke 24:32 KJV
The "affection of Christ" is the result of consistent companionship with Jesus. Prayer is life-changing, heart-warming, soul-stirring, will bending, character-building conversation with Jesus. The Father will do what ever is necessary, and take as long as is needed to conform His children to the image of His Son.
Are studying and serving more, but still feeling a chill in your heart? Anything that cools your love for Jesus is sin. Prayer melts the ice of a frozen heart, and puts back the pieces of a broken heart. WARNING: Talking about Jesus is not a substitute for praying to Him. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!