THE AFFECTIONATE APOSTLE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
In Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin In The Sun, the father of a poor inter-city black family has just died leaving only a small insurance policy. The widow plans to buy a small bungalow in a better part of town. Her son, however, wants to invest the money in a business deal he believes will multiply their small legacy. She refuses at first, but his relentless pleading wears her down, and she relents. He invests the money with a friend, and the friend skips town with the cash. When the son confesses his failure the sister flies into a rage. She curses him for being so stupid as to gamble their future. The mother cuts off the tirade and says, "I thought I taught you to love your brother." "Love him," she shouts, "There is nothing left to love!" But mom replies, "There's always something left to love-and if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing."
She went on, "Have you cried for that boy today? Not for yourself because that money's gone, but for him, for what he's been through! Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When he's done good? That ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in himself cause the world done whipped him so!" Such love and compassion for the fallen is always impressive, but it is not all that surprising when we see it coming from a mother. We expect mother's to be unusually loving of their children, even in failure and folly. But what is somewhat surprising is the discovery that this same affection and compassion is to be the normal emotional reaction of the Christian man. What is even more surprising is the discovery that one of the great models of this merciful affection is none other than the Apostle Paul.
This macho man, who could take on the highest authorities of Judaism, and the officials and kings of the Gentiles, and back down from no man, was one of the most kind, tender, and caring men whoever lived. Paul is so often in conflict that we usually see him only as a warrior fighting for the faith, but here in this love letter to the Philippians we see a different side of Paul. We see the so-called feminine side of a man's man. Men are notorious for being unable to share their feelings, but Paul gets almost mushy in his expression of feelings to the Philippians. You ladies will have to change your feelings about Paul when you focus on the feelings he expresses here. There are other places where he seems to be anti-feminine, but here we see how Paul really felt about females, and about the more feminine emotions of tenderness and caring.
In chapter 4 he pleaded with the two women to agree with each other, and he urged the leaders there to help these women who had contended at his side in the cause of the Gospel. Paul raises these women up as partners with him in the ministry. Paul had women marching by his side in his salvation army. Paul did not deny equality to females in the service of Christ. We will look at this a little deeper later. But for now we want to focus on the fact that Paul was not afraid to exhibit his feminine side.
Listen again to verse 7: "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, sense I have you in my heart." Most men would say that I will keep you in mind, but Paul says that he has them in his heart. This is deep affection unmatched anywhere in Paul's writings. They were not in the suburbs of his sub-conscious. They were in the center of his very being. He had feelings of love for them, and he doesn't hide it. He comes right out in a public letter and says so. Then he goes on to frost the cake in verse 8 where he says, "God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." Now he has the Father and the Son linked with his tender affection. We could paraphrase Paul with statements like this: God will back me up on this. I am not exaggerating, and I mean it sincerely. I am not trying to butter you up. I really love you guys.
Not only does Paul have Christ in his heart, he has the Philippians in his heart, and he loves them with the affection of Jesus. Now what does he mean by that? Is he saying that Jesus, the God-Man, the perfect man, the ideal specimen of manhood, was an affectionate man who could express deep feelings of love and caring? That is precisely what he is saying, and by doing so, Paul makes clear that men in many cultures are conditioned to be un-Christlike in their manhood, for they are made by their culture to avoid the affection of Christ. Men conform to culture and not Christ, and they loose out because of it.
I am amazed at the number of books being written by women, and their profound insights into men. If you want to learn about men, read the women authors. I have been reading a lot of women in the past year, and have come to prefer them as a source of information about men. Dee Brestin wrote The Friendships Of Women. Dr. James Dobson has on the front cover these words: "Every women should read this book." I felt bad that he limited the readership to women, for every man could benefit tremendously by reading it. It is loaded with insights into why women are friendlier and more intimate, and superior at expressing feelings and affection.
Women make better and closer friends, and they are more supportive of one another. Men are side by side absorbed in a common activity, but women are face to face absorbed in each other. It can be seen in little boys and girls. The boys are more engaged in games of competition, while the girls will be setting on the bed face to face whispering and giggling with each other. It is almost unknown for boys to hold hands, and write notes of affection to each other, but girls do this. The result is, girls form deeper friendships, and boys have superficial relationships that can be broken with far less pain.
The point is, men need to see the affection expressed by Jesus and Paul, and realize this is an important aspect of life that they often neglect, and that not to their benefit.Developing greater affection can benefit out relationship to our wives,children, and to all people with whom we communicate.