One dimension I absolutely adore in Philippians is the love Paul expresses for his converts. Some people think Paul is a hard man, that he is anti-woman, that he had an anger problem etc. Look more closely and you see that is not the case. The only time Paul really gets aggressive is with false teachers who are plundering his flock. Take 2 Cor 10-12, Galatians and Phil 3:2, 18 and you will see these examples. He becomes a shepherd defending his flock, and calls people angels of Satan, dogs, evil workers, mutilators etc., and even tells them to emasculate themselves. Tis true in 2 Corinthians he gets quite sarcastic with his opponents, and that there are texts that appear anti-women; yet, on closer analysis one finds Paul to be utterly counter cultural in regards to his language.
Leaving aside the issue of women and Paul, look at Philippians his language. We see Paul the shepherd, Paul the pastor.
In 1:2 he does what he always does one way or another, and prays a blessing of peace and grace on his readers. In 1:3-8 he is so loving it is almost mushy. He thanks God every time he remembers them. He prays with joy over them. He assures them of God's providential concern for them. He says 'I have you in my heart' (see Wallace, Grammar on this translation). He calls God as witness as to how he longs for them(epipotheo) all with the affection of Christ Jesus. The word for affection is a deep word, splagchnon. Literally, it means the guts, the viscera (cf. Acts 1:18). Figuratively, it means in the depths of the being, the heart. He longs in his guts for them. An associated term is repeatedly used in the Gospels of Jesus' compassion for people (e.g. Matt 14:14). He longs for them and loves them. This is non-manly language in the ancient world. It is counter-cultural. It is insanely pastoral. It shows that Paul loves them. Remember too that in Philippians the church is divided to some extent; Paul says he loves them all, despite their division. The calling of God as witness is not unique, but radical.
Tracking through the letter we see more of this love-language. He wants them to love more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (1:9-10). He favourably speaks of Roman Christians who preach out of love (1:16). He uses 'brother' meaning 'brother and sister' (1:12; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21) repeatedly to assure them of their oneness in the family of God the father (1:2). Phil 2:1 is cool! In this verse he lays the foundation for the appeal that will follow giving 4 'if any' constructs, speaking of the Trinity, God's love, the foundation of all love. 'If any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any koinonia in the Spirit, if any affection and compassion' (note affection here is the same term as in 1:8). This all combines to speak of a God who loves us! If any... yeah baby, heaps! An eternal load of love!
He then appeals for them to love each other, find unity, emulate Christ, stop scrapping, live out the gospel so people are saved (2:2-18). The Christ pattern in 2:6-11 is the heart of the letter, Jesus through love coming to earth to give himself for us! It is his affection with which Paul loves them in 1:8. It is Christ's love and comfort that sustains them in 2:1. Every example in the letter relates to Christ. He is the pattern for living, for loving. He redefines masculinity away from Greco-Roman notions of being 'above' such things, of renouncing emotion as non-manly etc. He embodies the fullness of both heart and mind... no dualism in Paul, none in Christ. It's ok to cry men, to express emotion. It's ok to sing Jesus is my boyfriend songs and sit and weep with those who suffer. It's ok to love your people pastors. In fact, its the guts of ministry.
Then he gives two glorious examples of selflessness, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Lovingly he speaks of Timothy as his son serving at his side in the gospel, a beautiful image of father and son working together in harmony (2:22). He lovingly describes Epaphroditus in an OTT five-fold way: 'my brother, co-worker, fellow-soldier; your apostle, minister to my needs', Then in Phil 3 he speaks of false examples, the Judaisers, and other pagan-influenced enemies (3:18) who embody a false gospel of legalism and libertinism. Note in 3:1 where he reminds them of constant warning, and more importantly, in 3:18 where speaks of being in tears for them as he warns them. That is not manly. But it is the heart of pastoral ministry!
Then in 4:1 he gets unbelievably intimate. In one verse he lays together five words of intimacy: the Philippians are his 'brothers and sisters, my beloved (agapetos; ah, that makes me tear up), my longed-for ones (epipothetos; same family of words as in 1:8), my joy and crown, beloved (again).' It is like he is saying, 'you complete me!' They are his crowning glory. This precedes what will then follow, a direct appeal to the conflicting women to be one again. It makes sure that they know that, despite their conflict, he loves them! Like God's love for us which is inextinguishable (Rom 8:35-39), his love for them is undiminished, despite their scrap.
Then he goes OTT again as he talks of their gifts to him, waxing lyrical about how he is amply supplied and that they are a 'fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God' (4:10-19). Finally he gives another blessing of grace (4:23).
In Philippians Paul redefines masculinity (actually Jesus had already done so and Paul imitates him cf. 1 Cor 11:1) and shows us who lead God's people what it means to love. It means to love, be a shepherd. As the old song goes, 'the King of love my shepherd is', and we should be so. Yes, there is a time to rebuke. But love is the foundaton. All rebuke and critique MUST come out of love. We need to remember this when we look at others, the church, the world and want to give it heaps for its failure. Love must be the basis of all that is said and done. Indeed, all is vanity without it. Check out 1 Cor 13. Read it as the centre of 1 Cor 12-14, what matters is not superb charisma and spiritual giftedness, what matters is love; it is the heart of Christian character. It is the missing dimension in today's church. What is needed is a new charismatic renewal, this time a karpotic renewal (fruit = karpos in Greek), the outpouring of spiritual fruit on the people of God, flowing to one another, and out to the world. Then we will see the church and world transformed. It begins with pastors and leaders. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.