Brief thoughts on a prayer of Paul’s

“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.” Philippians 1:9-11

As Paul prays for this persecuted church that has been so good to him, but that is also beginning to struggle within itself, the first thing he prays for is love. Not a cold love, not a weak love that can be trumped by offense or ambition, but a love that “abound[s] more and more.”

It’s also not a naive or fragile love Paul has in mind – not a love that works until situations get dicey or until relationships get complicated or damaged. Relational damage can happen easily in the thick of mission; it’s not just the purview of the shallow or totally self-involved. Paul prays for a love that is marked by “knowledge and all discernment” so that it can navigate the inevitable rough waters.

It is also important to note that it’s not just discernment he’s after. He’s after discerning love, where the love is the primary noun. The discernment and knowledge aren’t so we can find out who is right, but rather so we can parse out how we can love one another well right here, and right now, in the midst of external difficulties and internal complications. It’s so our love can be grown-up love.

It’s this mature, discerning love that will allow them to find the best ways forward out of many good options, and will help them resist the draw of compromise and the temptation toward mediocrity. It is this abounding love – this mature, wise love – which, guiding them to choose excellence, will lead to purity and blamelessness when the Lord appears; and it is this love that will lead to fruitfulness in Christ and the glory of God.

May our love, and the love of those we serve among, abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.

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