THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 1, specifically, Philippians 1:15-18.
Reflection | Previously, Paul revealed a surprising perspective on his confinement, perceiving it as a Spirit led opportunity to share Christ with the Roman soldiers guarding him 24/7. This sustaining grace God has given Paul, evidenced in his ability not just to endure his situation but to thrive in the midst of it, inspired others in the faith. As Paul further reports, through the example of the Holy Spirit’s work through “his chains,” many Christian brothers and sisters have become more confident and courageous in openly proclaiming the Gospel.
But now, Paul acknowledges some division within the ranks of the community as he describes two different types of witnesses for Christ. One group cares. They are motivated, he says, by “goodwill” (v. 15) and “love” (v. 16), specifically in assuring Paul that he is not alone in his defense of the Gospel. The other group cares too – but their primary focus is to take care of themselves. Motivated by “envy and rivalry” (v. 15), this other group of people want recognition. They proclaim Christ “out of selfish ambition, not sincerely (v. 17) trying to demote Paul and promote themselves. We are not told who exactly these divisive and antagonistic people are. All we learn is those in this group did not like Paul and wanted to “stir up trouble” for him – to make him feel more isolated than he already was.
Once again, Paul’s response to what is clearly a personal attack, is unexpected. Verse 18 is probably better translated as “What then?” or in our modern-day parlance, “So what?” Our impulse when we are attacked is to strike back – even if we don’t actually do it, most of us will still at least fantasize about how we’d like to get revenge. But not Paul. Paul’s response is not just to turn the other cheek but, “because of this I rejoice” (v. 18).
How can Paul possibly rejoice in a situation like this? His answer is two-fold. We’ll address the second part of his answer next time with verses 19 – 20. For now, Paul’s first and primary reason for rejoicing is that the truth of the message about Jesus is getting out there either way. In other letters written by Paul, we witness how he speaks fearlessly and forcefully when the Gospel is at risk. But that is not what is happening here. Some of the messengers may have the wrong motives, but the Gospel message they are sharing remains centered on Christ. Paul rejoices because the sharing of the life-saving truth about Jesus is more important than whether or not he himself achieves universal respect in the Church.
Paul demonstrates for us what a Christ-centered posture actually looks like. It means not allowing our sense of identity or security to be defined by where we find ourselves or what other people think or say about us. It means instead, we always must seek our confidence and our joy in who Jesus is and who we are in Him. Our circumstances, our reputation, even our feelings will change. But the truth about Christ will never change. We will not always be comfortable. We will not always be treated well. We will not always get the credit. What matters is we keep giving Jesus the credit. Because when Jesus is glorified through acts not of bitter retaliation but of humble and loving deference, lives are redeemed, and this world is transformed for the better.
Consider and Discuss | From where does your identity & security come – the comfort of your circumstances? How others think of & treat you? Or who you are in Christ?
Prayer Focus | Lord, protect us against all that threatens our confidence in Christ. Enable us to become more fully alive to who You are & who we are in You & in this to find our joy. Amen.