Friday, January 30, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 14 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

Paul concludes his major points to the Philippians with these words:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

If you look back at Philippians 3:1, you will see that this is the second time in this letter that Paul has written "Finally..." In the first case, Paul wrote about things to avoid. Now he writes of things to dwell on:

  • Whatever is true -- Things and people who are the genuine article: without hypocrisy, sharp rather than dull, modeling the true faith and its outworking, worth emulating.
  • Whatever is honorable -- Doing the right thing because it is right even if it costs you.
  • Whatever is right -- Knowing what things require taking an honorable stand.
  • Whatever is pure -- Maintaining a clean conscience.
  • Whatever is lovely -- Music, visual arts, decorations, landscaping, scenery, and so forth. Such things enrich life and help direct the soul to higher things.
  • Whatever is of good repute -- Things that endure the test of time because of intrinsic value.
  • Excellent -- Things done extraordinarily well.
  • Praiseworthy -- Things that inspire awe.

Now I have been somewhat abstract in the above list, not that being such is a bad thing. But contextually, these ideas are not that far from the schsim between Euodia and Syntyche. How might their relationship improve if they had eyes for what was true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely in the other person? To illustrate what I mean, consider that I maintain a very messy work environment that does not meet the standards of being praiseworthy, excellent, of good repute, or lovely. Also, there are things about which I procrastinate, which is neither right nor honorable. I could go on. Note this: How good it is that my wife and friend of 30 years does not dwell on these things about me, but rather dwells on those things in me that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and so forth. If she dwelt on such things, and I did not change, we might still be together after 30 years, but we might not enjoy each other's company as much. Long term relationships can require dwelling mostly on the positive things.

Paul then communicates  something very important about leadership. He writes, "the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you." That is a bold statement. But it comes from one who has a proven record. He has seen what is possible with faith and he desires to pass it on. To do the same, Christian leaders must have lives worthy of emulation: Lives without hypocrisy, that do the right thing, teach what is right, open to criticism and able to admit faults, able to deal with artistic people, able to communicate enduring values in a changing culture, does all things well, and is worth emulating.

Do not doubt that the unsaved world responds to such things. As I reflect on what Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings cinema masterpiece, I see that it is all about things that are true, honorable, and so forth. It is an inspiring film precisely because it is about those values and that is why people are drawn in. Of course, the values come from the original written work and Jackson's efforts to flesh it out have kept it intact.

These verses demand more reflection, but I hand that over to you. I have provided some initial thoughts.

Monday: Paul gives thanks.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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