19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. 23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly. 25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; 26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:19-27)
Friendship within the family of God is often deeper than friendship outside. In fact, many (myself included) find that the bonds we have in Christ are more trustworthy than even familial ones. Paul’s comment that Epaphroditus was a “fellow soldier” is a key to this phenomenon. Soldiers have to trust their lives to fellow soldiers. In that close, often intensely stressful, situation, a new definition of brotherhood is often experienced.
The two men Paul mentioned in this passage had a deep bond with the Apostle. Timothy is described as having a genuine concern for the welfare of the Philippians. Even among some of Paul’s other ministry companions, self interest reigned rather than Christian concern and integrity. Timothy was the only one who was on the same page — ministry-wise — with Paul. I wonder what the real motivation for accompanying Paul was among the others in his circle, but I will never know this side of heaven (and then I won’t be concerned about it).
Epaphroditus was also concerned about the Philippians, only in a different way. Biblical history suggests that he was one of them. He didn’t want his friends there to worry about him — even though he risked his life for the cause of Christ.
I count friendships in the Body of Christ as genuine in much the same way that Paul did. Some people are closer to me personally (as Paul was to Timothy) and I know their genuine service to Christ because we have laughed, cried, and prayed together. I have depended on them and they have not let me down. They have been a source of great encouragement to me, and I will always revel in their friendship.
There are others that I know from their service. Many of my missionary friends are among these. I know the risks they have taken for the cause of Christ. I know what sacrifices they have made materially and of their families. The writer to the Hebrews calls them, “men of whom the world is not worthy” (11:38).
May God grant that they will have the same opinion of me.