Monday, May 27, 2013

Philippians Chapter/Week 1

One week ago, having reawakened my Twitter account in order to be more engaged with my daughter and her friends, I responded to the tweeted invitation from Amy Gross to spend 4 weeks reading and reflecting on Paul's letter to the Philippians.  Her format is near-effortless enough to be manageable, but structured enough to require self-imposed commitment and, in my case, dependency on the Holy Spirit to see it through and reap the rich harvest sure to be waiting for me. Basically we read 1 chapter a week, and post reflections, take-aways, aha moments, etc. on Mondays.
Well, today's Monday, so here goes.  I read through Phil 1 three times, I think, with varying degrees of focus.  And what sticks in my mind the most is the first part of verse 27:  
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. 
And what makes it stick in my mind is this:  What the heck does this mean exactly?
When I posted the verse on Facebook, the first response I got was, "Well, there goes happy hour this Friday."  But is this what Paul means? Is this an admonishment to straighten up, fly right, and remove any appearance of questionable behavior or even fun from my life?  Surely not, though this is exactly what the Enemy would have us believe. But I realize that in my own mind I twist Paul's words to mean, "Conduct yourself in a manner that appears unimpeachable, as if you have it all together, that follows all the rules, that draws no finger-pointing, that is holier than thou, that is pleases others, nay, that pleases everybody..." and I am forced once again to recognize that even as a believing Christian I still succumb to the ever-present subconscious nagging that it's all about works and appearances.
If I am to respond to Paul's exhortation, I must understand what the "gospel of Christ" is, and what it is not.   At the risk of trivializing the dilemma, I feel somewhat like Charlie Brown when he cries out in frustration...

This is what I know about the gospel (literally "Good News") of Christ:  it is simple and complicated;  it is good, not bad; it is about God's grace, not my control; it is about my heart more so than my behavior; it is about my intimacy with Jesus more so than my going to church; it means I am saved by Jesus' sacrifice, not my own striving; it means I don't have to know all the answers before I can talk about it; it means that the Holy Spirit will guide me into understanding so that I may "conduct [myself] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ"...

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