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Encouraging others can be risky

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25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. Philippians 2:25-30

 

Risk is something we’re subconsciously taught to avoid. Some of us, as children, remember riding bikes without helmets, skating without elbow and wrist pads, and riding in cars without seat belts. And now, helmets, pads, and seatbelts are the norm. We live in a society that is largely about reducing risk. This is not to say we should be careless with our lives, but it is to say that risk is sometimes necessary. Today, we find things about this passage that are risky. Encouraging others can be risky because we never know how people will react. Being present with someone is risky because it requires vulnerability. As we influence others, we risk the potential of failure should we led them astray or they fall into trouble.

Similar to today’s passage, early Christians served pagan neighbors during the plague. This turned out in some cases to be the ultimate risk – they paid with their lives. They demonstrated love to those around them who perhaps were throwing stones and slanderous phrases at them just a short time before. The risk was high but, when the plague came, these Christian brothers and sisters took on the mantle of risk in the service of their Savior.

Epaphroditus took the risk as well and he became seriously ill. We don’t know his exact illness. It could been an infection or a brush of plague. Despite the risk, Paul talks about his joy even as his life is poured out as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17). His personal demise didn’t diminish his gladness and rejoicing with the Philippians. Christians in this country haven’t quite tasted the same risk as our ancient predecessors nor of those in other regions of the world today. But we can support and pray for fellow Christians who are realizing joy and gladness despite the actual sacrifice of their lives. As you watch ‘A Letter from the people of the Cross…,’ pray for those who are sacrificing themselves and pray for the courage to stand should you be called by Jesus to sacrifice.

 

Even if I am to be poured out
as a drink offering upon the sacrificial
offering of your faith,
I am glad and rejoice with you all.
-Philippians 2:17

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By Rich Obrecht

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