“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” —Philippians 1:8
The emotion in Paul’s declaration is strong. He’s not just telling friends he misses them. He’s not just wondering how things are going at the office or in the neighborhood. The words used here describe deep, inner affections. He is separated from people he deeply loves and is not afraid to say so.
Have you ever gone on vacation and just relished being away for those first few days? New places and new people are interesting and distracting, for the moment. But eventually our thoughts and yearnings turn toward home, our family, and to friends of long standing whose lives are interwoven with ours.
Not everyone is part of a close family, with parents, cousins, brothers, and sisters. Some families are painful and difficult and maybe you don’t miss being away from them. But a church family, fellow believers who love Jesus—while not perfect, and also difficult at times—can fill an important need in our lives. In fact, the family of believers is meant to fill a need.
“The factor that most significantly determines my new identity as a Christian is not the blood of my biological family, but the blood of Jesus. We are given a new name (Christian), a new inheritance (freedom, glory, hope, resources a hundredfold), and new power (the Holy Spirit)....and able to enjoy the absolute security and stability, freedom, intimacy, and confidence in prayer of children in God’s family,” Pastor Peter Scazzero writes.
When I think of the apostle Paul writing, in prison, about his Christian brothers and sisters, I can picture him, chained to a soldier, a wave of nostalgia sweeping over him as he longs for the warmth and welcome of his friend Lydia’s home, for the hearty embrace of the jailer who had become his brother in Christ, and for the sweet hugs of the jailer’s children. Little is mentioned in Scripture of Paul’s biological family.
If you don’t have this kind of relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ, then I encourage you to nurture bonds of fellowship. Get into small group studies, reach out to others, bear one another’s burdens. Pray for each other, and soon you will find yourself loving each other, with a common bond of Jesus and His inexhaustible love.
“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” —1 John 3:23