So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. Philippians 2:29-30 (EHV).
Is Paul being mean here? In the last few verses, Paul says he is sending Epaphroditus home so that he can be cared for. In these, however, it sounds like Paul is, well, being a jerk.
Or is he? Maybe Paul is simply being honest (because the Philippians couldn’t do more to support him and his ministry).
Years ago, my son played junior baseball. One of the coaches on the team was, hands down, the best junior coach I ever saw. He had a way of teaching pre-school boys and girls how to play on a team. Part of that included sometimes telling one that he needed to move them when they weren’t working out at the position where they started. Or when they hit the ball but it was caught out. He was being honest while being kind, firm while still gentle. Sort of like Paul must have been with those for whom he cared, this coach had a talent for breaking bad news clearly but kindly.
Or there was the NCO for whom I worked in the Air Force. When I was a young airman, I wanted very badly to win an award. I watched as others in my unit won it, and wondered what I was doing to be consistently passed by. So I went up to the MSgt and he responded quite bluntly, “if you want the award, you need to do the work. So far, you haven’t shown that kind of material.” That was rough to hear but it helped me take a look at myself and admit that he was right. I was ‘calling it in’ with a lot of my work. That edgy and, yes, humiliating assessment was the start of turning myself around. A few years later, I finally started to do it the better way by turning to God. And then things started to really happen. Now, I’m thankful for that moment.
Paul must have been like that. Honest, almost brutally so, but forthright and caring. Able to let someone down while doing so in a way that actually builds them up through caring truth. Sometimes we have to be bluntly honest with people and that’s tough, both on them and on us. Sometimes we NEED to hear hard truth; sometimes it’s ok to simply have someone speak squarely with us. Paul wasn’t being mean with the Philippians: he was being their friend and speaking frankly in their best interests. We should do the same.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 16:17, 1 Timothy 5:17, Philippians 3:1.
Lord Jesus, let us always be honest, forthright, and caring as we deal with others. Help us to continually follow Your example.