Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Paul’s love and affection for the Philippians is obvious from the first couple of verses. However, the great Apostle never intended love to end with these saints, he wanted their love to abound and overflow for one another and those around them. This is evident in his prayer for the Philippians, found immediately after his opening greeting.
“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.”
What does it mean to let love abound? According to the Greek, the word Paul used for abound literally means “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; be the better, enough and to spare, exceed, excel, increase, be left, redound, remain (over and above).”
So Paul is praying that the Philippians love would grow to such an extent that there would be excess, enough to spare, and tons left over. That’s big love! It’s a love that never runs dry. Love that’s big enough to reach beyond the comfortable sphere of church and family to touch the lonely hearts of a hurting community and world. It’s a love that knows no bounds and is not held back by people’s appearance, hardness, or sin. Love that speaks the truth even when someone doesn’t want to hear it, but also meets the broken right where they’re at and doesn’t pass judgment. It’s not blind or ignorant, however; it is unconditional. It’s the kind of love that God showed us.
This is the love Paul prayed the Philippians would grow in, and the kind of love that we so desperately need to possess. Love is meant to flow through our lives. God’s love toward us knows no bounds, likewise through us, His love ought to flow and abound to others. When we have truly received and experienced God’s unconditional, unfathomable love, it should open our hearts to love others in the same fashion. This is what it means to let love abound.
Love with Discernment
Love must abound. We need it to bubble up and overflow in our lives. However, Paul adds an important side note to this concept. We must love with knowledge and all discernment.
This may seem odd at first glance. For are we not commanded to love everyone? Isn’t that the kind of love Jesus showed us?
It is true that we are urged to love all people, no matter their background or history; however, it is clear in Scripture that we should not love all things or all the actions that people do. Here’s some examples in Jesus’ life. He loved the Pharisees but hated their hypocrisy. He loved the Jewish people but hated what they did in the temple. In short, Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin.
Likewise, in our love, we must be careful not to blindly love all that people do. We can love a person caught in alcoholism or drug abuse, but hate the drug industry. We can love the murderer, but hate the crime. We, like Jesus, are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin.
Why We Love
We must love with knowledge and all discernment so that we can approve what is excellent, and so be blameless and pure before the day of Christ’s return. This is why we love, why Paul commanded the Philippians to love, and why we must continue to grow and abound in love.
We all want to stand before Christ and be blameless. We don’t want Him to say, “I loved you unconditionally, so why didn’t you love others?” No! We want the love of Christ to increase in our lives so that it overflows and blesses those around us. If we do this, Paul promises us that we will be pure and blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus.
This is a compelling reason to love, don’t you think? So let’s get out and abound in love with knowledge and all discernment to the glory and praise of God!