image source: http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CPn11Philippians.htm
There are passages written by St. Paul that are deeply theological. The Book of Romans comes to mind.
There are passages where St. Paul has to play the tough guy and call people out. Parts of 1 and 2 Corinthians are examples of tough love.
Here we have a beautiful example of how St. Paul loved the people in his life deeply.
Affirming by Thanksgiving
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.Paul's life was about telling people about the Good News of what Jesus did to restore us to God. The Philippians were supporters of his work.
Paul arrived in Philippi in Acts 16:12. They didn't get to stay long as the Roman authorities booted them out of town in Acts 16:35-40. Apparently, even though Paul was no longer with them, they somehow managed to keep in touch such that Paul was very thankful for them. We have a hint of this in Philippians 4:14-16 where is sounds like the Philippians provided financial support for Paul.
Pointing to a Hopeful Future
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.There are few things more encouraging than to know that someone believes in your potential and possibilities for a blessed future. We are all a work in progress and He isn't done with us. Thus, our hope isn't based on us and our solo efforts.
Expressing Personal Feelings
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.When was the last time any of us have said to someone, "I hold you in my heart?"
Or, "I yearn for you?"
I suppose newlyweds might talk that way!
Nonetheless, there is power in sharing ones feelings isn't there?
Notice that Paul is in prison! Yet, he is finding ways to encourage others. I think that kind of attitude is only possible when there is a higher power at work in our lives. I know how it is easy for me to get into a woe is me pattern.
Desiring the Growth of the Other Person
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.When we love someone, we want the best for them. There is not a "thing" on this list. The list is about character and relationships: love, knowledge, discernment, purity and righteousness.
We don't know what Paul looked like.
image source: http://www.oldmasterpiece.com/painting-en_286.html by Rembrandt c. 1657
But we do know what Paul's heart looked like from this passage.
Lord, teach me to pray and care for others like the way Paul did. Help me to grow in love and knowledge and discernment so that I can live a life of righteousness. Amen.