Honour the Brave
Brave people should be honoured. Those who put their own life on the line to save others are wonderful examples of selfless courage in the face of danger. Of course, not all risky activities are 'brave' in that sense. Some extreme sports are simply foolhardy. Their goal is death-defying personal achievement: it is essentially selfish (although we often admire people like that). But those whose personal risk saved another's life, ought to be highly commended.
Paul was no stranger to danger. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 and 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 detail his extraordinary lifestyle of beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, and imprisonment as he lived under suspicion and threats. He went through it all to preach the gospel, establish Jesus-communities and rescue souls from the grip of hell (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). Others were strongly motivated to be a part of that missionary movement of people, including Epaphroditus. He had travelled from Macedonia to Rome bringing gifts from the church and was eager to help Paul in gospel ministry. He, like many Christian missionary workers subsequently, almost died from disease (Philippians 2:27). But his primary loyalty and desire was to see Jesus welcomed into hearts, homes and even Caesar’s palace through Paul’s teaching (Philippians 1:13) - so he felt the risk was well worth taking.
Paul’s instruction for the church to welcome him back home with joy may seem strange. Would they not be glad to see him, did they not want to hear his news about Paul? The apostle was a realist. The church had problems enough of its own. They were also suffering in persecution (Philippians 1:29). In such circumstances Paul urged them to turn away from their own pain and rejoice together as they welcomed Epaphroditus home. Self-pity or indifference must give way to joyful thanksgiving to God and honouring the man who risked his life.
Who do you know who risks their life for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom? Or are we somehow conditioned to avoid risk at all costs. Today, around the world, more people than ever before are being persecuted for their faith. They may not be high profile ministers, but they have the gospel-desire of a 'Paul' and the sacrificial care of an 'Epaphroditus'. Most are scarcely noticed; but they bravely continue to love, worship and serve Jesus even when their workplace despises them, their communities ignore them and their families disown them. Others travel, in response to God's call, encountering all sorts of difficulties while deprived of familiar comforts, friends and family. Many still fall ill, while some have accidents and some die. Paul's advice to believers is to find these people, honour them, look after them and support them in whatever way we can. Heaven honours them (Revelation 14:13), so why don’t we?
© Dr Paul Adams