July 31, 2017
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
Paul and Timothy? What’s the meaning of this? Who does this? Who writes a letter from multiple senders? The answer: No-one. In ancient letter-writing literature this practice was unheard of. On this point, Paul is in his own category, and he did it in no less than seven of his letters.
Why Paul? Permit me the liberty of answering in my best impersonation of Paul.
Why Paul and Timothy, you ask. It’s because there is no “I” in Gospel. The Gospel is relationship. It is the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Gospel is not about me or about you. It is about us. Because the Gospel is about love it must be about relationship, for love cannot exist outside of a relationship.
This letter will be all about Paul’s relationship with the Christians in Philippi. In fact, this letter will be a celebration of their friendship in the Gospel. It is only fitting that the letter be birthed out of the relationship between Paul and Timothy.
The older I get the more I understand that God doesn’t use us as individuals. He indwells our relationships. Jesus looks for two or three gathered in his name. He says people will know we follow him by the way we love each other. He attaches the very success of the Gospel to the quality of our relationships and their embeddedness in his relationship with the Father. When he teaches us to pray he says to say, “Our Father.” Even in the hiddenness of our personal prayer closet we say, “Our.”
As Americans we tend to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of a personal relationship with God. We equate personal with individual and individual with private. Our relationship with God is intimately personal, but it is not private. Our relationship with God is uniquely individual, but never isolated. It is personal and corporate. It is individual and communal. It is Paul and Timothy.
Perhaps this is our big impediment to actually sharing the Gospel. We think the Gospel is a body of content that one person must share with another person. What if the Gospel is more about the sharing of a radically open relationship with an ever-widening circle of would-be friends? What if it’s not me who shares the Gospel but we?
What might it look like to find and found our friendships in the Gospel?
Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who calls us his friends. Teach us the way of founding and finding our friendships in the Gospel. Show us the way of consecrating our friendships for your purposes in the world and give us the joy of seeing you bear fruit through them, and all of this for your glory. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
- How does this challenge your sense of relationship with God. Do you have a “me and Jesus” mentality?
- What would it look like to have a “we and Jesus” mindset? How can your friendships become leveraged by the Gospel of Jesus?
- Like Paul and timothy—Who comes after your “and?” Who is your friend in the Gospel?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.