All In The Family – Biblical Partnerships

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Philippians 1:3-5  This scripture was a letter written by Paul while in prison. The Roman colony who are a people of great pride, language, clothing and customs didn’t appreciate Paul Jewish ways – Acts 16:20-21. This was a stretch for Paul too and thus the opening of the scripture is rather surprising… “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” This is partnership in the wildest and widest sense. Two cultures that are so different yet so close The word translated ‘partnership’ in the NIV is the word “koinonier”. Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul uses the word to describe the relationship between the Philippians and himself. From a completely different culture from the Philippians and yet deeply connected to them.

There are four things to learn about Biblical partnerships from the book of Philippians: The Context of Biblical Partnership Paul’s partnership with the Philippians was in the context of their deep relationship and love for one another. The words Paul uses here are deeply emotional words. The literal translation of ‘I long for all of you!’ is “I yearn for all you with all the bowels of Jesus Christ” The Greeks thought of the bowels as the seat of emotions. It’s like when you’re in love and you see your loved one, then your stomach starts doing knots, your heartbeat races, you’re short of breath, etc. Key take out here is that the context for true partnerships is a God-given love and affection for one another.

Often, our thinking of the word ‘partnership’ is borrowed from a corporate/business perspective – two people or two companies coming together because of what they can get from each other – You give me, I give you, and we both become better. Of course that means when I stop getting the full value I expect from being with you, then the partnership is no longer worthy of my time. That’s a transactional relationship! But that’s not the type of partnership that Paul is talking about here.

A better illustration for biblical partnerships is a marriage. In a good marriage, we don’t stay together because of what we can get from each other. You get married because you love the other person, not because it makes good sense for your taxes, or you get to live in a bigger house or raise kids more efficiently. Your love and commitment to one another is the point of the relationship, and it’s what keeps you together, even in tough times! In John 17:21, Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples is not that they would be more strategic in evangelism, or more effective in discipleship. His prayer was that they would ‘be one’. This was the only way that the world would know that the Father had sent him. Relationships are first and they remain front and center. They can easily become transactional, based on what I get from you but true partnership is like a marriage. It’s a commitment not because of but despite of. You always have to keep investing in the relationship because it’s the main thing. If you stop investing in the relationship, what you can do together suffers. Love for each other is not a means to an end. In a transactional partnership, the focus of the partnership is the transaction. In a biblical partnership, the focus of the partnership is the relationship. While the relationship is first, there are great benefits that come from the relationship in the process.

The Result of Biblical Partnership Philippians 1:27 Paul teaches us about the true orientation of a partnership is to be ‘outwardly oriented’ or ‘other centered.’ The end result of our partnership is that the Gospel moves forward. That, after all, is the mission God has given us together! Standing firm, one in the spirit is a military concept. The idea of gladiators standing shoulder to shoulder to ward off attack and to keep moving forward. The overall idea here is that the Philippians will be more effective if they partner together to push the Gospel forward. Let us do together what we can’t do apart!

How do we ensure that we are missional in our friendship? That our friendship indeed enriches ‘the other’, and that it goes far beyond so as to help us to expand our narrow horizons and care more for those outside the normal boundaries of our affection?

The Courage of Biblical Partnership  Philippians 1:29-30 Paul’s understanding of suffering is so different than ours. We generally try to avoid suffering as much as possible. But Paul considered it a privilege to suffer for Jesus! He knew that following Christ is entering a battle and that battles come with pain. Modern day Christianity has been fine-tuned to avoid any form of suffering or inconvenience, but the result is a shallow faith! Paul invites the Philippians to suffer with him for the gospel of Jesus. Billy Graham reportedly said, “Mountain tops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys”. It’s fun when we’re going through good times, but our greatest growth happens when we go through the trials of life. Perhaps one of the reasons why so many partnerships are often shallow – whether you’re talking about church to church relationships or whether you’re talking about marriage – is because we are not willing to face trials together! But true partnership is not just for the good times – true partnership also longs to participate in the other’s troubles and sufferings! When we go through tough times courageously together, our partnership matures.

The Sharing of Biblical Partnership  Philippians 4:14-15 Paul ties this idea of suffering for each other into the practical matter of helping each other. In many partnerships, resources are often the most divisive and most difficult issue to deal with! But here’s an observation from Philippians that could stand as a principle of partnership – Paul leaves matters of finances to the last! Why is this so? Perhaps it is because finances always stand the chance of souring partnerships. In a very real sense, finances in partnership are like pre-marital sex in a relationship. Once you participate in it, it stands the chance of overwhelming the relationship to the point where a couple does not grow spiritually or emotionally, but are now consumed with the agenda of sex. In the same manner, when a partnership starts on, or early into the relationship finances are exchanged, the partnership may never really get over that hurdle – or may need special nurture to get over it. As we begin to build a secure relationship of commitment to each other and in the process of figuring out how to impact the world together, we must cross the barrier to talk about resources. At that point, we must look at the principle of verse 15 which is that there must always be a partnership of ‘giving and receiving’. This is about mutuality. A true partnership is never one way, in the flow of resources, but two way. A true partnership acknowledges that there are different gifts that each partner brings on the table, and that money is just one of those gifts. A true partnership longs that each partner’s gifts are dignified, acknowledged and enjoyed by those in the partnership, in the process of changing the world together. Paul addressed the hardest part of partnership, the most divisive – Money. And when it comes to money, there are 2 misconceptions:

  • Resources = money
  • Money is all that matters

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