WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – Do Paul and the other apostles get too mushy for you in the terms of endearment they often use with their readers? Or for that matter, do you get a little uncomfortable when I call you “dear brothers and sisters” or “my dear friends”? Well get used to it, because there’s going to be a lot of that sort of language in heaven, and you’re going to be there a long, long time – and you’ll find it coming from your mouth as much as from anyone else’s. It will just be natural in heaven.
One of the reasons Jesus left His church on earth was for it to form little colonies of heaven – places where people could get a glimpse of what heaven is like and, hopefully, desire to go there. One of the most impressive characteristics of these little bands of Kingdom people was their obvious love for one another. Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
And so, Paul – Paul the tough guy; the repeatedly beaten, whipped, imprisoned, and shipwrecked guy – Paul was not the least embarrassed to begin winding down his letter to the Philippians with this:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil. 4:1).
“Beloved” was the apostles’ favorite term for those they served and for each other, occurring 69 times in the New Testament. The Father Himself set the precedent. “Beloved” was the term He used the only two times He introduced Jesus with an audible voice: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:17; 17:5).
WONDERFUL THING IN MY LIFE – I discovered this radical love the first Christians had for one another soon after I fell in love with Jesus and His written Word to me. I didn’t immediately feel this affection, and I was certainly not comfortable expressing it. That was, of course, irrelevant.
Neither my feelings nor my comfort level mattered (still don’t) – there it was before me in black and white: they deeply loved one another, sacrificed for one another, and couldn’t stay away from one another. “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God” (Acts 2:46-47). And through the rest of the New Testament, they weren’t bashful about expressing it.
The Jeff in me wasn’t comfortable with that. I’m talking about the Jeff who loves solitude, who’s comfortable being alone (as long as Judy’s there), who doesn’t naturally feel a need for others. But, dear ones, that’s one of the reasons I read the Bible so much: to let it flush the Jeff out of me as “with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26).
By faith, I began calling Christians “brother” and “sister” like they did in the New Testament, and I began practicing the love I knew Christ-in-me had for them. And gradually, I began to feel it. Now, it’s natural. (Since then, I’ve modernized “beloved” to “dear ones.”)
If you want to be part of a people who love each other like the New Testament Christians did, you can do one of two things: (1) Die and go to heaven, or, if that isn’t in your near-term plans, (2) be part of changing your “outpost of heaven” into that kind of community.