“Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.”
Paul had the capacity for great empathy. Empathy, as over against sympathy, is the ability to identify with the pathos (passions) of others. It is the faculty to put yourself in the place of another and consider his state of affairs.
“Therefore I sent him the more eagerly”
“Therefore” means as the result of God’s merciful healing of Epaphroditus. The Philippians were going to have their leader and friend back.
Because of the pain the Philippians felt for Epaphroditus’ illness, Paul sent him back “the more eagerly.” His eagerness was not because of his desire to get rid of Epaphroditus. That would have been to his own detriment. His eagerness had to do with his empathy for them.
Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is simply feeling the emotions of another person. Empathy is the ability to identify with the state of the other person. Paul put himself in the place of the Philippians. By doing so, he acted unselfishly. He sent back someone very important to him. Empathy is a sign someone is thinking of others and cares for others.
“that when you see him again you may rejoice”
It would be a great day when Epaphroditus walked into the Philippian church after being gone for so long and after almost losing his life. They thought he was dying, and then he showed up in church!
Beyond that, he would carry a letter (an epistle) that would become part of the Word of God. Paul anticipated great joy on their part when Epaphroditus was to come home. Imagine sitting in that church when Epaphroditus read the epistle to them. What joy that must have been.
“and I may be less sorrowful”
There was something in this that would serve Paul. It was not something for him personally. Paul would be served by knowing the Philippian church would be comforted by Epaphroditus’ coming. In other words, Paul’s concern was not for himself but for the Philippian church: “I will be less sorrowful to know that he arrived safely back in Philippi.”
Empathy is a principle of selflessness.
A person who shows the capacity for empathy thinks seriously about others. How much time do you think about the plight of others in your sphere of influence? Do you care enough about them to put yourself in their place? Do you identify with their hurt? Do you act upon your understanding?