Philippians 2:19-24

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,
so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him,
who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests,
not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth,
how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,
and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
Philippians 2:19-24
Goodbyes are never easy. Even before we had children, I would blink back tears as kindergarteners boarded buses on the first day of school. Now, I keep sunglasses on to hide those tears as we move our young adults into college residence halls and apartments. And in this pandemic season of quarantines and self-isolation, separation feels more poignant. Families that live continents apart wonder when travel bans will lift, when they might visit each other in person again. Hurried goodbyes happen in hospital parking lots when new rules limit or outright prohibit visitors.

Technology helps. We are moved by stories of video calls between little ones touching fingertips to grandparents’ fingertips or of soldiers overseas blowing goodnight kisses to their babies onscreen. In our WhatsApp, WeChat, text-savvy culture; we might miss the urgency and power of a hand-delivered letter. But physical separation from people we love has to be one of the most painful experiences of our earthly lives. Add the fear that comes with injustice, oppression, or disease; and the pain becomes hard to bear.

Paul writes this letter from prison, under the shadow of possible execution, his future and his very life uncertain apart from eternal hope in Christ. Paul’s fellow worker in the faith, Epaphroditus, has been ill, “near to death.” Injustice, oppression and disease weigh heavy on this fault line of separation, creating a chasm wide and deep. Across this chasm, a word arrives, a letter like a lifeline, delivered by the hands of a healed Epaphroditus, with words of hope from Paul and more news from Timothy to follow soon. Since Paul himself can’t be with his much-loved Philippians, until Paul can be with them again, he sends Timothy. We hear Paul’s love and devotion to Timothy in his commendation of him. Paul calls him a son, unlike any other, with a heart of genuine concern. Timothy is no self-serving politician, but a servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a man of proven worth.

A greater sin chasm separates each of us from our holy God. Across this chasm, the Word arrives. Jesus Christ offers Himself as our lifeline, paying the penalty for our sin in his death on the cross and conquering death once for all. In turn, we can offer this lifeline to others, becoming servants of the gospel of Christ. Like the Philippians, we hold a precious love letter in our hands, with a promise of infinite hope, that Jesus Christ will follow soon.

Questions for Reflection:
  1. Who are the ‘Timothys’ in your life, people with greater concern for others than themselves, willing to serve with you in the gospel? What do you learn from them? Take time to thank God for them and look for opportunities to thank them as well.
  2. Make good use of technology to send a message or FaceTime someone or write an old-fashioned letter, reaching out across physical separation to share the gospel or encourage a brother or sister in the faith.
  3. In a journal, write a letter back to God, a prayer of thanksgiving for His Word, a love letter and lifeline to each of us.
Rebecca Janni | Author 

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