In his prayer for the Philippians Paul asks that their love would grow. “Grow” is really an understatement of the Greek verb. Many translations add the idea of “more and more.” This helps but as 05 wisdom loveGromacki observes, “The imagery behind this verse is that of a river overflowing its banks during a flood.” As rivers overflow their banks they become wider and wider. I think this is what Paul had in mind. But we need to bring in the rest of verse 9 into this equation. Philippians 1:9 says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…” I really like the way Gromacki continues his discussion on this verse and I think he nails it. He writes, “Love is the river, and its two banks which form its channel and direction are ‘knowledge’ and ‘judgment.’ Christian love must not be a stagnant pool or a slow moving trickle; rather, it must be a raging torrent.” Yet even a raging torrent must have boundaries. Wishy washy love, without control, will land in many wrong places. All rivers are going in some direction, we must be certain that the right direction is maintained.

The left bank of the river is “knowledge.” When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said in 1:9 that believers must be filled with “the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Biblical love does not act in a vacuum. It has boundaries that give it proper direction. The right bank (if you will!) is “discernment” or “judgment.” The author of Hebrews understood the importance of this concept when he wrote in Hebrews 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” I find that true wisdom lovingly applied to all circumstances of life is a very complicated matter. Everything we do must be done in love, but it also must be done with wisdom and discernment. It’s extremely difficult!

George Rusty, in his “Real Life” Commentary of Philippians helps us think about this properly. He writes, “What good decisions do you need to make today, in order to follow Jesus more closely? Maybe you are in the midst of a conflict at work. A coworker takes credit for work you’ve done, or there is friction between you and your boss. Maybe the decision you’re facing lies at home. Your marriage is rocky at best, and you’re ready to throw in the towel. Whatever the situation, you can make a good decision. Step One: What action would God be a part of? (Remember, He will finish His good work!) Then, start with love, consider what the Bible has to say about it, investigate the heart of the matter, and carry out your decision in a loving way.” Decisions managed in this way always bring the best results. Paul knew that and he passionately wanted us to know it as well.