What does it mean to develop companionship with another person or with a church? Paul faced his upcoming sentence and execution by the Roman empire with optimism while building the early church and he certainly couldn’t have done it alone.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons :
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you.
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
Paul’s optimism is seen in this letter that he addressed to the Philippians, the first church in Europe. The establishment is a necessity not only because he was following the Word of Christ to spread the gospel. Paul, as an individual, needed the companionship and encouragement from those who held his same ideals. This is how he can remain optimistic and develop an enduring faith even in the darkest hours. All of us can take a hint from Paul– without companions whom we trust and share our joy and pain, we won’t last very long.
How does the majority of people treat pain?
In the face of illness and other misfortunes in life, it is easy to harbor hatred and jealousy towards others. A classic Chinese secular attitude is to compare oneself with another and ask why it had to be me– I’m born poor and I got fired on my job and my colleague is fine. Shouldn’t he be fired and poor as well if we led a similar life? Couldn’t the misfortune land on someone else?
Even for Christians, it is all too easy to cast blame on God. An immature believer who only appreciates the Bible as a static book or rules might pull out a list of “do’s and don’ts” for the typical Christian and question God, why after following these rules are we not exempt from these pain and displeasures of life.
Our default mechanism of dealing with misfortune is to attribute them to reasons of what we could have, should have, done to avoid them.
Paul chose to transform this pain into grace through companionship.
With brothers and sisters who also seek the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, he can relate himself with the pain and joy with the companions in the church he built in Phillipa. “Whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” (Philippians 1:7). The ultimate union with them yielded something greater than what he alone can bear. He accepted the toll on the body and mind as the cost of building God’s kingdom and that even if his physical life is over, there will be others to carry on the Jesus Movement.
Over ten years ago in 2007, Pastor Joe built the Good Samaritan Kuala Lumpur (GSKL) church in Malaysia, an inclusive Church that welcomes anyone and embraces the LGBTI community. As an illegal entity in a Muslim country, it is not unlike the situation of persecuted Christians in Early Church History. Joe wants to surround himself with like-minded Christians, those who also share the same vision of the Kingdom.
The sleepless nights when police and religious fundamentalists come knocking on your door, they can all be forgiven.
All the wrongs that Joe has to bear can be accepted and forgiven.
When you have someone to share your visions with, any hardships in life seem to be bearable.
Because we finally know who, what and why we are fighting.
To all the readers, do you have a special someone in life you can call your companion? Did that person help you through your darkest hours and share your joy? Let that person know how much you mean to him/her. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, know that you need one to weather the trials on earth.
This bond will carry you far and gather power that you alone cannot muster. A kind of power that can stare at death in the eye with faith and joy.