(Listen to this sermon here)
In light of current events over the past week, I'd like to encourage us with some of Paul's words in Philippians 4:5.
Paul begins by telling the believers in Philippi to let their reasonableness be known to everyone. While the ESV translation renders "reasonableness", probably the best english word, taken from the original language, would be "graciousness". Based on the context of Philippians and the way in which Paul writes this sentence in the original language, the term "everyone" is intended to mean people outside the fellowship of believers. Obviously, Paul would agree that believers should treat each other with graciousness, but I find it interesting that his appeal, in this text, is aimed primarily believers, encouraging them to let their graciousness be known to the unbelieving world around them. How are you doing with that? Would nonbelievers characterize you as gracious?
Because Philippi was a place of persecution and hostility towards Christians, I can only imagine the believers' sober response to Paul's words here. Not only was the church at Philippi facing disunity among each other, but they also had to persevere through persecution from those outside the faith as well. Think about that. Paul is exhorting them to act graciously towards those who were, most likely, the same people persecuting them! I'm pretty sure the persecution the Philippians faced in their time is far worse than anything we've experienced here in America, yet, do we respond with graciousness? I hope we do, Church.
While these are hard issues, I believe a lot of the struggle has to do with our perspective.
In Philippians 2:15 Paul encourages the believers to "shine as lights" in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. This verse also echoes Paul's statement in Philippians 3:20 that the Philippians are not citizens of this earth - they are primarily citizens of heaven. Paul's encouragement to "shine as lights" is constructed within the framework that the earth is not our home. Our Kingdom citizenship should determine our earthly citizenship - not the other way around. Therefore, as Kingdom citizens, we should be gracious and "shining as lights" especially to the unbelieving world around us. How are you doing with that? Do you look at the unbelieving world around as a burden or an opportunity to show grace and love?
This Kingdom perspective allows us to:
1) see the bigger picture God is painting
2) have hope and perseverance to endure suffering
3) persevere and act graciously within the world around us
Where do you find yourself most of the time?
Do you think, speak, and act graciously to those outside the faith?
What excuses do you sometimes make to justify NOT acting graciously?
It is my prayer that we, the Church, would be the type of people that embody Paul's encouragements here. I pray that we would see the world around us with the eyes of Jesus and seek opportunities to love, serve, and act graciously to all people, but especially to non believers. I pray that we would embrace our Kingdom citizenship first and let that reality determine how we act as citizens here on this earth, all for His glory.
For His Kingdom,