Friday, March 11
Reader: “Dear brothers and sisters,”
Response: “We are citizens of heaven.”
Scripture: Philippians 3:17-21
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
It is commonplace nowadays for people to think of life in terms of the sacred and the secular. There are Christian and religious things people do and then there are everyday business, shopping, educational, recreational, and relaxation kinds of activities people engage in. The sacred and secular as described above are pretty much separate worlds in many people’s minds. In this pericope Paul is addressing the matter of conduct as it relates to living out Christian faith. Commentators are divided as to whether Paul is writing to immature Christians, Judiaizers (people who view the Old Testament law as still binding on all Christians), or people antagonistic to believers. And for those people who don’t believe, like Paul, we also live in a world where people brag about shameful things thinking only of this life on earth.
Philippi was a significant city in ancient Rome. It had a cosmopolitan population with retired Roman military personnel, Greek citizens, and some Jews. The language was Latin. This was the hometown of Luke. In addition, it was located on the main trade route between east and west so people from many countries were passing through. It was also a wealthy town with gold and silver mines nearby. All of this to say, it was what we would call a very secular city and at the same time, Christianity was very new, barely thirty years old.
When Paul writes to “pattern your life after mine” it may seem rather egotistical upon first reading. That is why context is important. The Philippians had virtually no picture of how a Christian should live. Paul was their first model! He freely admitted that he was a sinner saved by the grace of God which he made abundantly clear in his other letters. He wrote that in God’s view as taught in the Scriptures, there is no separation of the sacred and the secular; all of life is sacred. Faith is to be intrinsically connected to conduct. Conduct grows out of a living faith. But with fallen human beings, there is frequently a separation of the two, whether deliberately or unconsciously. That’s the challenge for you and me.
The Apostle finishes this thought with the reminder that Christians are citizens of heaven. We tend to think of living on earth as a dual citizenship; we live here but we are going to heaven. Would it be different if we thought of all our interaction here on earth as heavenly conduct? In truth, we are aliens, pilgrims on this planet temporarily but God created us to live with him in heaven, which is why at our core we do not have a sense of ultimate rest now. There is a part of us that continually looks forward to what’s next. Even when we get old we look forward to what’s coming! Paul reminds us that we are going to get immortal glorious bodies like the resurrection body of Jesus! God has the power and will do it as he brings everything under his control. That is something to look forward to!
It is remarkably easy to become focused solely on the here and now, upon this world with all the plethora of “secular” activities making up what we call life and forget the biggest picture. All too often we make time for all these “activities” and then add on, if there is time, the “religious” things. (E.g. People attend worship in person if it “works out this weekend.”) Paul points out very forcefully this division of sacred/secular is a corrupt way of life and a faulty way to think. How different our lives would be if we thought of every encounter, everytime, every activity, every conversation no matter the topic as sacred interaction. What is it that makes the activity or conversation sacred? Something to think about!
Here’s an idea. I just read a short piece by a friend of mine, Dean Moyer. His article was roughly on what Paul addressed in our passage. He used as an example to embrace this idea―ask a person in conversation, what was (is) the best part of their day. It may open the door out of the usual and mundane “How’s it goin’?” Try it!
Music: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Squirrel 24 !
Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, there is no number of Thy days or of Thy mercies: Thou hast sent us into this world to serve Thee, and to live according to Thy laws. Let Thy Holy Spirit lead us with wisdom and perception. Grant that every part of every day may be lived in holiness and godliness. O dear Lord, look upon us in mercy and pity and forgive us when we embrace and are encumbered with the cares of this world forgetting Thy sovereign love and power. This we pray through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. ―Jeremy Taylor 1613-1667 from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.214 (©1897!!)