the bowels of Jesus

        In Philippians 1:8, Paul says that he longs for the people of the church in Philippi "with the affection of Christ Jesus."  It’s a deep yearning he has for the people.  He longs to go and be with them.  It’s an intense love, filled with compassion.  Paul longs to see them, hang out with them, serve them, laugh with them, fellowship with them.
        Literally, its a strange phrase to us today.  Literally Paul says, I long for you "in the bowels of Christ Jesus."  The bowels?  That sounds sac religious, eh!  Don’t believe me?  Look at the King James Version! 
        I suppose Paul was really moved inwardly by his longing for the Philippians!  Yet the bowels-phrase is not so strange at all.  It’s just like saying "I love you with all my heart."  We take the "heart" language of love for granted today.  It’s sort of a sick, silly visual- the blood pumping organ.  But our point in using "heart" is to say that we love someone with the very core of who we are— the seat of our emotions and identity and life.  (By the way, I think many people in love today should try to love with their brain for while!- But that’s another post!)
        In 1st century Roman world, the bowels represented a similar metaphor.  The bowels were the innermost part, the deepest core, the seat of action and movement in the body, an intimate-private component of who we are (and that is occasionally made public!).  The bowels, in my mind, represent the expelling of our most inward composition!  We either expel good stuff… or not-good stuff (Matthew 15:17).
        The NIV translates bowels, then, as "affection".  The NLT says "tender compassion".  The Message says "I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!" 
        So all of this leads me to Paul’s point.  He longs for the Philippians with the inner-most affection of Jesus.  Wow.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  What would the affection of Jesus look like?  If we loved people like Jesus, how would that change us?  How would it change others?


  1. Right on, Paul. I’m with you. I would like to be able summon the depth of Christ’s love constantly. For many reasons I suppose I don’t sustain that sort of passion and vigor. I wish I woke up each day with his view of others shaping my outlook. Thanks for the reminder that it is Christ in me that enables us to love that deeply. Perhaps this is what Paul (the Apostle) had in mind when he says he loves the Philippians with the affection of Christ. Jesus has so invaded Paul’s thoughts and feelings that he exudes Christ’s love. Hmmmm.

  2. oh man, if i could love like Christ did/does…wow.
    if i could honestly say that i would die for someone, and then actually do it, and risk the fact that the person who i died for may never embrace the compassion and pain and suffering and redemption i purchased for them…i don’t know if i would do that…it’s too costly, too risky, too beyond my ability to muster up that much love for someone who might never recognize it.
    i suppose at one level i want this kind of love to be real in my life, and at another level i realize how useless any attempt to try and love the whole world in this way is for me as a sinful human…and that is why Jesus is the ONLY one, the only way, the only option to discover, if only minutely, such incredible and life changing love. i’m not making excuses for my inability to love the same way as Christ (and i suppose the Message may be a little too liberal in that sense of this verse), but i find comfort knowing that Christ living in me is how He has chosen to continue expressing his love to others; and that is my calling and my privilege, and as a believer in Jesus i embrace that humbling call.
    thanks again ken, for helping me pause, to consider the depths and heights by which Christ accomplished his loving act to our world and how i might participate with him in sharing it through my life.

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