And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)
It is no surprise to many that Jesus admonishes his followers to love God and love others (Matt. 22:36-40). Love is primary for follower of Jesus — it is by love that the world will know that we are of Christ (John 13:34-36). Love is so important that Jesus even emphasizes that it is the approach that we are to take with those who despise or mistreat us the most: our enemies (Matt. 5:44-46).
Love is clearly important for life as a follower of Jesus. But, what about those times when we are not so inclined to love? What about those times that we are not so inclined to love God? What about those times that we are not so inclined to love our brother or sister in Christ? What about those times that we are not so inclined to love our enemies?
Outside of Christ, the notion of loving is a highly subjective practice. When we feel warm and fuzzy around someone, we are inclined to love them. But, when the pricks of human relationships happen, we are not so inclined to love. Love in this subjective manner ends-up being dictated by our own limited perspective of life. We lack a broader perspective. We lack knowledge and insight greater than our own.
This is what Paul acknowledges in his prayer in Philippians 1:7-11. He realizes that if the Philippians seek to love out of their own limited perspective and experiences, then they will get muddled-down, and discouraged when they are called to love God or others, when either does not act according to their expectations. So, Paul prays for the love of the Philippians to be developed by knowledge and insight of Christ.
Now, gaining knowledge and insight of Christ does not mean that every person needs to attend Bible college, go to seminary, or aspire to a Ph.D. In theology. But, it does mean that every follower of Jesus should be aspiring to grow in their knowledge of Jesus, as long as they live life on this side of eternity.
Everyone comes to loving God and others out of some knowledge and insight. But, all of us are at different points on that continuum. Maybe you came to love God out of the knowledge that his son left the beauties of heaven to love the creation of his Father by coming to live on earth. Maybe you came to love your husband or wife out of the knowledge that they left their parents to create a new life with you.
Whatever the knowledge or insight you have about a person, at some point, there will always be something more we can learn about them. At this point, we can either choose to love out of the current knowledge that we have. But the downside is, our current knowledge or insight of the other person will run into some bumps, if the other person does something out of sync with our current knowledge of them.
Jesus’ disciples anticipated that he would deliver Israel through a king like David. But, when he acted differently by allowing himself to be crucified, and later resurrected — the disciples were confronted with having to increase their knowledge and insight about what God was doing. They had to gain knowledge that God was not just about delivering Israel from Rome, but delivering humanity from sin and death (Rom. 8:2). As they increased their knowledge and insight of God, their love for him is expanded as well.
Scholar Michael Reeves in his book, Delighting in the Trinity says,
Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God…. [And] getting to know God better does actually make for far more profound and practical change as well. Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving. Sensing the desirability of God alters our preferences and inclinations, the things that drive our behavior: we begin to want God more than anything else.
When we learn more about God, it it not just an exercise in gaining knowledge. Rather, it is an exercise of opening ourselves to a broader reality than just our own. And, when we encounter the wonder and expansive beauty of God — that we see in the life of Jesus — our love and dedication to God grows; and when our love for God grows, so also grows our love for others (see Matt. 22:36-40).
I, like Paul, also pray that our love would abound more and more, as we gain knowledge and insight into the God that we worship and the master that we follow, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day that Christ returns, and so that we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ Jesus.