First, you have to realize that Philippians is a letter Paul sent to the congregation at one of his favorite church plants. He wrote the letter while under arrest in Rome for being Christian. The Philippian Church raised money for his defense. He was writing to thank them for their support and to encourage them to remain strong in their faith.
That’s all well and good, but the thought I had focused on the letter aspect of this book. In fact, several books of the Bible are letters written by Paul and other apostles to the faithful at various churches. What do I mean by “the letter aspect?” I simply mean to point out the language used in the introductional chapters.
When (considering today’s email society, it’s more IF than when) we write a letter, it usually goes something like this:
Dear Soandso,OK, that’s a very generic letter. But, to be honest, it has been so long since I wrote an actual letter to someone, and even longer since I received one, I can’t imagine there’s much more to them these days. Sure, there’s the family year-in-review letters that are jam-packed with tons of info about a family. And, it’s nice to get them and know what’s going on. But, what does it say about us – both the person and society – that we don’t write personal letters anymore? I mean email is great for its instant transmission. But, if you write the exact same thing on a piece of paper and mail it out, somehow it means more.
How are you? I am fine. This is what has been going on in my life. Someone you know says to tell you hi. Hope this finds you well.
So, looking back at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and reading how it starts off… Well, can you imagine how you’d feel getting a letter in the mail that starts off in such a manner:
2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.What would your reaction be if you got a letter in the mail that started half as elegantly? (Click on the comments to answer for yourself)
7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
This was my thought. Imagine the joy we could bring to the world if we just send one letter a month to someone we know. First, who doesn't like getting a letter in the mail. Second, sending a letter means you took time out of your schedule in order to relate to another human being. Furthermore, that human being knows it. That right there speaks volumes to someone. Now, what if that person was suffering? How much could that letter mean to them? The power of feeling cared about and loved goes a long, long way.
I do not want to sit here and promise to start mailing people one a month. I know that I am human and something will happen that will prevent me from doing it (whether it be some tragedy or my own procrastination, or something else). But, I truly do hope that I can get into the habit. Let me restate that another way... I hope that I can prove to myself that I am not so shallow as not to care.