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Two millennia before the concept of individual learning styles became prominent in teaching, Paul emphasized the importance of truth being seen and experienced, as well as heard. Having enthralled the Philippians with the wonder of their salvation and hope of glorious future transformation, he earths his words in gritty practicality and pastoral warmth.
How is Christ’s salvation made visible? Well, it is seen when two valiant, faithful leaders who have fallen out are reconciled with the help of others in the congregation: because the issue of who is right is less important than their shared status “in the cause of the gospel” (v 3). It is shown when, despite threats from outside the church, challenges from within and personal uncertainty concerning the future, God’s people brim over with joy because of their relationship with Jesus (v 4). It is evident when celebration is coupled with thoughtful gentleness to all (v 5). It is witnessed when prayers of thanksgiving and petition are the reflex reaction both to God’s nearness and to life’s anxieties (v 6). It is observed when believers direct their thinking to the beautiful and good, in a society often titillated by the risqué and murky (v 8).
Paul here honours virtues admired in Greco-Roman stoicism, a constructive apologetic stance, but looks at them through the prism of Christian discipleship (v 9).
How, then, do we know that we “stand firm in the Lord” (v 1)? A firm foothold is known in the unity of feisty, passionate leaders who choose to work together despite painful differences. It is practised in the decision to discipline thoughts and actions for the sake of Christ. It is received as peace from the God of peace, a gift that logic and argument, circumstances and emotional state cannot deliver: a peace that outshines that externally imposed by soldiers and rulers, guarding hearts and minds.
First used in Encounter with God July-Sept & Oct-Dec 2014, written by Fiona Barnard, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission
Father God, your work in our lives is so practical! In our church too we need to learn to get along with one another, to know joy even when things are tough, to be thankful in all circumstances.