And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best … Philippians 1:9-10

This is part of Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi. Paul connects growing in love with knowledge and depth of insight. This leads to an increase in discernment.

In daily life, we see children grow in their ability to discern. They begin to recognize dogs as distinct from other four-legged animals. As they get older they begin to recognise different breeds. Teenagers begin to appreciate the differences between different makes and models of cars, whereas to a small child they are all cars. Likewise, as we grow spiritually our minds are renewed and become more discerning. We are “able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2).

Discernment is important when it comes to loving others. Christian love isn’t blind! Sometimes the most obvious way to help someone may not be the most loving. With our children, we know that it’s not always helpful to rescue them from the consequences of their actions or to give them everything they ask for. We know that sometimes you have to be tough to be loving. The same is true with adults that we are trying to help. Sometimes we have to allow them to feel the pain of their situation before we can help them.

Paul’s prayer acknowledges that our love needs to increase in wisdom so that our loving deeds will be beneficial to those on the receiving end, and not an enabling that allows them to continue in unhelpful ways.