I naturally think of the image of the Shepherd with the sheep, when I read of Paul’s joyful affection for other believers. Though the sheep are often difficult, the Shepherd does everything to care for the sheep (John 10). Though they wander, he expends all of his time and energy seeking out the lost sheep (Matt. 18:10-15).
In serious-minded biblical churches, pastors rightly value theological rigor, biblical worship, exegetical preaching, corporate prayer, the right administration of the sacraments and the exercise of church discipline. However, one thing that does not seem to get the same emphasis in such circles is affectionate pastoral ministry. I’m not referring to the quasi-liberal softness which poses as a counterfeit of true Spirit-wrought affection. What I have in mind is that example of the Apostle Paul, who modeled both zeal for orthodoxy and zeal for the people of God themselves. If there is one area in which I wish to grow, it is in this–an ever increasing joyful and affectionate longing to be with and labor for the people of God.
In Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards surveyed the Apostle Paul’s expressions of loving affection for the people of God and wrote,
“Paul represents himself, as overpowered by this holy affection, and as it were compelled by it to go forward in his service, through all difficulties and sufferings (2 Cor. 5:14–15).