Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being anxious and distressed because of our friends

We're working through Philippians in Bible study at the moment, and last night came to 2:12-29. As expected we spent a lot of time working through 2:12-18, thinking about how we might shine as lights in the world etc - good stuff.

Then we got on to v19-29, where we hear about Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, the relationship they have with each other and the way they struggle and content for the truth of the gospel. We talked about being fellow workers and struggling for the gospel in our lives and contexts, but then spent some time talking about v26-28, especially the anxiousness and distress that the Philippians are having because they have heard of Epaphroditus' illness.

It got us wondering, would we describe what we feel for our friends when we hear of their illness or bad news as 'anxiousness' or 'distress'. Probably not - was the answer we came up with. We might feel sorrow, sympathy, compassion or worry - but probably not anxiousness or distress.

Of course we do feel these things when its our wife or our kids or our parents who are suffering, but not our mates at church.

So what does that tell us? Well, presumably the depth of the 'anguish' we feel when we hear of a calamity falling upon someone we know is directly proportional to the depth of our relationship with them. The closer we are, the more we feel it. An extreme example is if our child is sick we get worried, even anxious. If a child in Africa is sick - there is not effect on us whatsoever.

But for the Philippians, for Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus - news of illness brought distress, sorrow and anxiety. Why? Because their relationship was one of Father and Son in the faith, because they were fellow workers and fellow soldiers in the gospel.

I wonder if this is a challenge to us? Perhaps the fact that we feel concern and sympathy rather than distress and anguish for our fellow workers is a sign that we need to deepen the relationships we have together? Perhaps part of that deepening of relationship comes in the mutual contending for the gospel, rather than just chatting over morning tea and having meals together? Should we be deepening our relationships with one another not just socially, but 'gospelly'?

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