Philippians is a book about joy — and it is also a book about practices that bring joy to relationships. In my book 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I share:
“If your vertical relationship with God is healthy, your horizontal relationships with people will be healthier too.”
To make sure this happens, I spend time with God’s Word in fresh ways so that it washes through me and into all my relationships. In our newest book, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, three authors (Jean E Jones, artist Karla Dornacher and I) offer numerous creative ways to explore and experience God’s Word.
One of my favorites is to fall asleep to Scripture. It calms my fears, fuels my courage, and refines my heart, mind and spirit. Recently, I immersed myself in an audio version (ESV) of Philippians. Hearing it read, like the letter it was penned to be, highlighted how much the Apostle Paul had to say about relationships.
Philippians 1:3 — I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.
People can tell when you appreciate them. We want to live in such a way that when people think of us, they light up with delight. Also, thank God for someone, with this “attitude of gratitude,” builds a sense of deep respect, honor and gratefulness toward the person. In short, we like people more and are willing to stay in their life with a steadfast love when we’re praying for them.
Verse 4 — always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.
We are drawn to people who express joy when they see us. Knowing someone is praying for you, with JOY, can build a relationship. That’s why praying for someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
Verse 7 — 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.
Our goal is to be “partakers of grace,” and we can do this as we hold others in our hearts. This means we choose to NOT make a relationship about a list of behaviors. Instead, we carry them with constant love, giving the benefit of the doubt to another’s intentions or motives.
When a relationship is based only on behaviors, no one can stay good enough long enough to succeed. Love’s grace trumps human imperfection.
Verse 9 — And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.
We can deepen our understanding of a verse by reading it in a few translations or paraphrased versions. I find joy in the expanded vocabulary definitions in verses 9 and 10 in the Amplified Bible:
And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin].
I also cherish these verses in The Message:
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of.