For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8 NASB)
For the first time I caught this verse amidst all the things Paul was mentioning to the Philippian church. It caught me off guard. I don’t talk that way to anyone, let alone have any affection for people like Paul did.
I had to look into it further. What is this affection of Christ?
After looking deeper into the meaning of that word, the “affection” he was talking about was a feeling from deep within, from his heart. From the depth of his heart he longed for them to know God more, to love more, to be perfected in Christ. But the affection is tied to the affection Christ has toward us. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s tender. It’s deep.
I’ve thought about the affection I have toward my family. I long for them in a similar way. Paul longed for the church. I think about the affection Christ has toward me in that He is patient, gracious, deeply loving to the point of the cross. Jesus said He came to serve. The affection of Jesus is enveloped in serving. And now I’ve quickly realized that I don’t have any type of affection like this toward those outside my family.
This kind of affection needs to be seen throughout the church. We need to demonstrate the affection of Christ and long for one another in this way. The rest of Paul’s letter focused on growing in that particular area among others.
We have to ask ourselves how we’re doing in this. So, how are we doing? I don’t long for you this way. I want to. But honestly, it comes down to the dark truth that I just don’t care about people enough to have that deep of an affection for them. My heart doesn’t realize how we have a unity in Jesus rooted in the grace of the cross. I’ve made Jesus my friend and not our friend. Jesus is mine, not yours. He’s my God.
Am I guilty of idolizing my relationship with God if the affection of Christ isn’t present within me? Don’t we both share in His love? How deep would a relationship go if we, you and I, shared in His affection together, toward each other?
Affection is a scary word. I’m not good at showing it. And I’m not good at lowering myself to serve like Jesus did. But that’s the affection of Christ. It’s close. Sometimes it’s so deep it’s even uncomfortable. It serves. It gives. It cares. It even longs to serve, beyond just the act of serving itself! It wants to.
Maybe in sharing this today I’ll become more aware of how I can long for you with the affection of Christ. Maybe the church will begin to show this kind of affection as well. If Jesus acted this way toward those who weren’t part of His kingdom, enough to come and die in order to save them from God’s righteous wrath, the world would know of the affection of Christ through the church if we grasped an understanding of this kind of affection.
How can you show the affection of Christ? How can you long for someone enough to show them?