“I love you with all my heart.”
It’s sweet if not cliché. We might say this to a spouse, child, parent, friend or any other person and I’m sure we mean it…at the time.
But what does it mean to love someone “with all your heart”? How do you do that? Can we love someone with part of our heart—does that count?
The Christians living in the Roman city of Philippi didn’t have to wonder if the Apostle who brought them the good news about Jesus loved with part or all of his heart. He writes in Philippians 1:7-8
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:7-8, NIV
Paul writes that he has the Philippian Christians in his heart. He even says why: they have shared the burden of spreading the Gospel. They have actually benefited from his love for them. They are Christians because of his efforts in the Lord.
He states in verse 8: God knows how much I love you!
They were in his heart.
And in the understanding of the Greek underlying the English words, it was not just emotional sentiment. This was also an act of his will.
He loved the Christians in Philippi with his heart and mind. His emotions and his thoughts were not only with them, they were for them. He thought and felt positive things about them.
This is the kind of love we should have towards other Christians. The Apostle John stated in 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…”
So, it’s not just Apostles who are to feel this way about other Christians. It’s every Christian.
So how do we get from where we are to where Paul is in Philippians 1:7-8 and where John is?
First, we don’t try to manufacture it. This is NOT one of those “fake it ‘til you make it” moments. Faking it will be read from a mile away. Paul was able to prove his love for the Philippian Christians. As they say, “the proof is in the pudding”.
Second, we ask the Lord to develop love for our brothers and sisters in the faith. This takes time, but it also takes our willingness to get outside ourselves. This means we are concerned about others. This means we look for ways we can bless them. This means we give them the benefit of the same grace God has shown us.
Lastly, we forgive each other. We keep “short lists”. In a humorous setting, someone once asked me about the last mistake Patty (my wife) made. I told them, “Although I know she’s not perfect, I honestly can’t remember.” Is it because I have a short memory? No—the opposite is true. It’s because love really does cover a lot of mistakes (cf. 1 Peter 4:8).
I pray that as you interact with your brothers and sisters in the faith you’ll find an increasing love for them so that you can honestly tell them, “I love you with all my heart—deep in my heart!”