“Since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.”
Epaphroditus was of great service to Paul while he was in prison, but he grieved for his congregation back in Philippi.
“Since he was longing for you all”
Here is another glimpse into the heart of Epaphroditus. He cared for people. He could not wait to see his congregation again. He was homesick. The Philippian church must have been some church. Paul wanted to go back, and Epaphroditus longed to see them again. When a church is what God designed it to be, people love to be there. It is the people in the congregation who make the atmosphere of the church. People who are proud of and happy in their church will attract others. The esprit de corps of an assembly is an essential factor in its growth. That is probably the most overlooked factor in church growth. In other words, it is the people that make the difference between a cold church and a warm church.
The esprit de corps comes primarily from the people, not the pastor. Obviously the pastor makes a significant contribution. Neither is it the music, although music is important in forming an atmosphere. If the people of the congregation cluster in little huddles when newcomers come, no matter what the service is like, the church will be deemed a “cold church.” If people do not smile and offer a warm handshake, strangers will feel like aliens.
“and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick”
The word “distressed” means grief, sorrow. Epaphroditus was grieving over the church back home. Notice that his grief was for them, not himself, because he had been sick. Now there is a switch! Most of us would have grieved if no one had heard we were ill: “No one sent me a card, no one cares. How sorry I feel for myself. How I grieve for myself. No one cares about me. I don’t think that I will go to that church again.” That is how most of us would think. Not Epaphroditus. He did not want to worry about the Philippians. His care anticipated their hurt for him. He did not want to cause any undue anxiety for them.
Selflessness is a core principle of Christianity.
The believer should orient to others that he not only thinks about them but longs for them. We should care more about others than about ourselves. In this passage, the context is church life. Are we unfriendly? Do we neglect to talk to new people? If we are so busy with our crowd that we do not involve ourselves with others, we contribute to the frigidity of our church: “That is a cold church. I have been here for four weeks, and no one has talked to me yet.” Do you care about others? Do you take an interest in others? If you do, it will make a big difference to your church.