Philippians 1:8-9. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment
Do you love others?
It’s not a trick question. And if you are in Christ then the answer is yes, yes you do. How do I know? Because if you are in Christ then you, like Paul, share the affections of Christ Jesus. Christ’s love for others is in your heart (or as it literally says – your bowels).
Most Christians would never say anything close to what Paul says in Philippians 1:8. Think about what he’s claiming here. Paul is trying to say that his love for others IS the shared love of Christ for others. That there is no separation between his love and Jesus’ love. And if Paul can claim this, then so can you and me. When we love, Jesus is loving. We when care for others we not only care like Jesus and even for Jesus, but we care AS Jesus.
Most of us are barely dealing with the command to love like Jesus. Of course, we all agree that this is our calling. But how many of us reach this place of understanding that our love IS Christ’s own love. That Christ has placed his very own deep affection into our gut. That we are moved by what moves him. Our broken heart is his broken heart. Our longing is his own longing. That together, ours are two hearts beating as one. We are one spirit with Christ and that one spirit loves deeply. And it loves purely. It abounds in love.
In Christ we can honestly say to others, “The love Christ has for you is the love I have for you.”
I know what you’re thinking – “I would never say that, Brady. My level of love is nowhere near Christ’s level of love. I still have such a long way to go before I’m loving like Jesus.”
Yes, and no.
Yes, the love in our hearts can abound more and more. That’s exactly what Paul prays for in verse nine. There’s always more knowledge of God and his love to be gained – it is infinite after all. And there’s always more discernment (wisdom) to be gained about how to best love others in a specific situation. We can always express Christ’s and our love (they’re the same love) in more and more ways, at more and more times, and to more and more people.
But also no. In Christ and by the Spirit we have access to all of his love all of the time. This is exactly why Paul can pray that our love might abound more and more. It is precisely because we already have all of God’s love in our hearts that we can love no matter what, and no matter when, and no matter who. It is only our knowledge and discernment that needs to increase (Eph. 1:17; 3:18-19; 2 Pt.3:18), not our love.
And that brings us to this very important application of the life of Christ in us – our love precedes our knowledge.
Usually we think we have to know someone before we can love them. Or that we have to agree on every point of knowledge before we can love. We think, “As I know you and agree with you more and more, I can now love you more and more.”
But that is not really the way of the indwelling life of Christ in us. Here’s how our hearts and minds actually work – we will only want to know someone more and more if we love them more and more. Love precedes knowledge. God defines us, first and foremost, not by what we know, but by what we love. What we desire. What we long for. This is why the center of our humanity is the heart, not the mind. The transformed heart then in turn transforms the mind. This is why the Holy Spirit is pouring God’s love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
So let me ask you again, “Do you love others?” Have you been tricked into thinking that you can only love those you know? Or do you believe that by grace through faith you have the affections of Christ in your heart? That you actually have the power to love everyone. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Despite what you know or don’t know about them.
Now we can add to our love knowledge. Which is exactly what God did when he became one of us in Christ. First he loved us. Then that great love for us drove him to know us experientially as our great High Priest. As our fellow man. By his incarnation, God added knowledge to love. He gained a depth of insight into what it means to be you and me.
“To live is Christ” is to live sharing the affections, the loves, of Jesus himself. May that love that has been poured into us now and forever abound more and more with added knowledge and insight. May we choose to know those we already love.
Do you love others?
You in Christ
Where can you feel the affections of Christ in your heart (or gut)?
Christ in you
Who do you love that you need to get to know better today?
Playlist: The affection of Christ