When Paul prays for the Philippians in chapter 1, he has a bold request:
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
In the context of the Christians at Philippi in the Roman Empire, the idea of territorial expansion seems so far-fetched. There are so very few churches! In fact, Philippi is the very first church planted on the continent of Europe at the time (see Acts 16). It’s not uncommon for observers of the culture to compare the first Century Roman context to our context today in the 21st century. We too are surrounded on all sides by cultural imposition; some parts of the world experience direct physical threat (northern Nigeria for example) Yet Paul is bold enough to pray that rather than retreating and circling the wagon, we may expand the territory of our heart with love. Love is not an emotion without boundaries, but love controlled by “knowledge” and “all discernment.” Yet Paul is totally emotionally engaged as well. He loves the Philippians and “yearn” for them with the “affections of Christ” (Philippians 1:8). For him and for us to partner in the Gospel involves total emotional engagement. This emotional commitment is bound by love filled with the ‘deep’ knowledge of God, as an intimate understanding rather than a mere academic or intellectual knowledge of a topic. To partner in the Gospel is both a left-brain and right-brain activity and this partnership should expand as we grow together in love.
In related news, this weekend we are sending some of our men to a 72-hour spiritual retreated called “The Great Banquet.” This immersive retreat draws its name from Luke 14:15-24 and is a powerful and tangible experience of the Agape (or unconditional) Love of God. Several from TCC have gone already and we are hoping and praying that God uses the banquet to draw many men to Jesus. The women’s weekend is October 11-14 and some space is still available! Another iteration of the Great Banquet for both men and women will happen in the spring of 2019. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Reflections for the week:
Our self-preservation instinct in the face of adversity and hurt tempts us to shrink back and retreat. In what way is the Lord asking you and me to expand the territory of the heart, to reach out to someone with love, even as the circumstances seem so adverse? In what ways should we re-engage emotionally with people? This will not come from digging deep from within, but it will come from the deep love of God in Christ that has been poured into our heart by His Spirit. And here is the good news, that we ‘gospel’ to ourselves and others every day: In Christ, we know that “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). May His love grow more and more in us and through us!