But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
While under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar, Paul was afforded certain freedoms, like receiving visitors and sending letters, but he also had to pay for or receive from family and friends all his basic needs, like food, clothing and medical care. Paul, the hard working tent-maker and traveling evangelist who took pride in never being a burden to others, especially to those with whom he shared the gospel, was forced to rely on the generosity of his friends. That’s why Epaphroditus traveled to see him, most likely bringing food and other necessary supplies. He also brought Paul a message of encouragement from their friends in Philippi. Along the way, Epaphroditus fell ill and nearly died, risking his life to help a friend in need.
Sometimes, we are like Paul during his time in chains. We have to accept the help of others and swallow our pride to admit our needs. We have to be humble enough to receive love and encouragement from those who offer it, knowing that someday we will need to encourage them. Because sometimes, we are like Epaphroditus. We are asked to show compassion to someone else. We need to sacrifice our own interests, even our well-being, to care for a friend.
The truth is, when the church functions properly, we should each be like both Paul and Epaphroditus. We each have needs that others can meet, and we each have gifts to share with those in need. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are hurting, and don’t be slow to offer help to someone else. That’s how the church has always done things.
Jesus, You taught us to love one another, just as You love us. Show me how I can care for my neighbors and for my church family. And give me humility to accept compassion from those You send to help me. In Your good name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian