Epaphroditus kind of sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? It’s an unusual name. But in the Bible, Epaphroditus was a dear friend and servant of Paul the apostle. His name shows up only twice in the whole New Testament, but there’s a principle in that: some of God’s choicest servants often go unnoticed; they’re content to work behind the scenes.
In truth, there are many different temperaments and roles within the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12). Let’s look at what Paul had to say about Epaphroditus and, from it, consider three things we can implement in our lives to get along better with other believers.
1. First of all, acknowledge their strengths. In Philippians 2:25, Paul listed no less than five titles for Epaphroditus: “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need.”
First in that list is “my brother.” If you’re not getting along with another Christian, you can at least acknowledge that person is your brother or sister, no matter your differences. Paul also called Epaphroditus his “fellow worker”; Epaphroditus voluntarily traveled all the way from Philippi to Rome to help Paul while he was in prison (see Philippians 4:18). Then there’s “fellow soldier.” It’s great to have believers who will stand and say, “I’m in this battle with you.” Epaphroditus was also the Philippians’ messenger; they were the ones who sent him to Rome, where he “ministered to [Paul’s] need.”
All that said, learn to look at people through the lens of their strengths, their positive traits. That might not come naturally to you, but you need to be trained by God’s grace to start doing it, because it can—and must—be done.
2. Accept their shortcomings. “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus…since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death…. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly” (Philippians 2:25-28). I think, along with the illness that almost killed him, Epaphroditus had a bad case of homesickness. Paul graciously didn’t make a big deal of it, but instead made it easier for Epaphroditus to return home. Friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness, and when you can overlook someone’s foibles and weaknesses, it goes a long way.
3. Affirm their sacrifice. “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me” (Philippians 2:29-30). Epaphroditus put his life in danger for the sake of the Lord, risking it all for Him. Paul said we should respect, honor, and thank such servants who sacrifice for the gospel.
This is how we can grease the gears of our relationships with other Christians: acknowledge their strengths, accept their shortcomings, and affirm their sacrifice. We’re all imperfect people, but by God’s grace, we can humbly follow Paul’s example with Epaphroditus and treat one another in a way that ultimately glorifies the Lord.