In future posts, we’ll dig into the details of what Paul SAYS in his letter to his friends in Philippi. In this post, let’s focus what he’s DOING by writing the letter in the first place.
What he’s doing is showing us how Christian friendship works.
Friends help each other in their time of need. So the Philippians send Paul some help while he’s in prison.
Friends also encourage and challenge and hold each other accountable for their behavior.
Because there are a number of things friend don’t let friends do.
Friends don’t let friends:
Drink and drive.
Drive and text.
Drink and text or tweet or update their facebook page.
Get bicep implants.
Of a certain age wear spandex.
Forward emails with pictures of cats doing annoyingly cute things.
Buy sushi at a gas station (or a bait stand).
Take a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time.
Watch Saved By The Bell reruns.
If you don’t know what some of these things are, that’s good news. It means you’ve got some great friends who aren’t letting you embarrass yourself.
Friends don’t let friends split a church over Chicken Joe’s mohawk.
Friends don’t let friends spend their time and energy pursuing goals that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter.
Friends don’t let friends waste their lives.
What do friends do for each other?
Based on what Paul does in Philippians we can say that:
Friends pray for each other.
Friends help each other stay focused on what really matters.
Friends set a positive example for each other.
Friends keep pointing each other to Christ, the third party in their friendship.
Friends remind each other that God will finish the good work he began in them.
In his book Vital Friends, Tom Rath describes his work on a research project designed to answer the question: Why do some people emerge from homelessness and recover and others do not?
During the course of his research, Rath interviewed a homeless man named Roger.
At age 30, Roger was living a nice life. He had a great job, one house, two cars, one wife and two kids. Several years later, self-destructive behavior left Roger without a job, a family, a home and without any friends.
During the interview, Rath asked Roger, “Who expects you to be somebody?”
Roger answered, “I don’t think anyone does anymore.”
Rath also tells about his interview with Maggie.
Maggie grew up in a terrible home environment and was homeless at age 16. Six years later, she got off the streets, got a job, and started working toward a college degree. A decade later, she was an executive at a financial services company and doing quite well for herself. She was happily married with two kids and a sizeable network of friends.
Rath asked Maggie the same question as Roger.
“Who expects you to be somebody?”
Without having to think about it Maggie said, “Jessica.”
Jessica was the volunteer who befriended Maggie in a homeless shelter and helped her get her first job.
One conclusion Rath drew from his research was that men and women who had been homeless for decades all had one thing in common: They couldn’t name a friend who expected them to be somebody.
Who expects you to be somebody?
If you were to ask the Christians in Philippi, they’d say “Paul expects us to be somebody. You should see the letter he wrote us.”
If you were to ask Paul, he could name plenty of people from his vast network, but he might say, “My friends in Philippi expect me to be somebody. They always send help when I’m in need.”
Who expects you to be somebody?
God does, that’s why he began a good work in you.
Who else can you name? Who else is a part of your three-way friendship in Christ?
Who else is working with God to help you be somebody?
Working together with God and our other friends, we can help each other live lives that really matter.
Because that’s what friends do.