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Pastoral Care for Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks

Paul shows us how to restore worth to the wounded and weary.
Pastoral Care for Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks
Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs | Source images: David Suarez / Unsplash | Wikimedia Commons

“I wish I could be more like Epaphroditus.”

That was the sentiment of one group member after our Zoom discussion of Philippians 2. Epaphroditus makes a big impression in spite of only brief references (2:25–30 and 4:18). Paul describes him in glowing terms as “my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs” (2:25). In light of Paul’s words, my friend felt inferior by comparison.

But when we read the whole story of Epaphroditus more slowly, a rather different, more human picture emerges. The church in Philippi had sent Epaphroditus to deliver a financial gift and assist Paul while he was in prison. But after Epaphroditus arrived, his health deteriorated rapidly. We aren’t told what his illness was, but he nearly died from it. In his convalescence, Epaphroditus grew extremely homesick. Knowing everyone back in Philippi was worried about his condition only added to his distress.

The stress ...

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