I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 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.
There has never been a year where I have approached this prayer of Paul and Timothy with such trepidation. This has been a year where many of us have sought solitude and can barely remember what it is like to gather together under the same roof. Even as Paul and Timothy longed for fellowship, they were held back by their own circumstances (not the fear that is induced in us by a global pandemic).
The other half of my heart feels the deep longing of this prayer of thanksgiving as I remember the moments of unity brought by corporate worship. My disconnection and isolation allow me access to some of the heartfelt longing that Paul and Timothy were so often feeling. Feelings of being far from home, far from comfort and uncertain of what was in store for the future.
As I read this prayer, I am forced to reconcile with my fear and my anger. So many divisions and opinions have made me doubt the strength of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I judge their messages online and their political opinions, and deep down my soul gives a sigh of relief that I don’t have to see them again on Sunday.
This prayer confronts my arrogance and pride. How am I comfortable disparaging the bride of Christ? My heart needs to be reoriented to see the church as Christ does.
So I hope that our love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment, so that we all may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. We all need this prayer for ourselves and, if we can love as Christ does, for those we disagree with.
Lord have mercy on us.
Greg Lookerse is an assistant professor of art.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.