Whatever Is True
Below is a brief walkthrough of Paul's letter to the Philippians that I wrote for my Parish at Atlanta Christian Church. Philippians is a short letter and a quick read, something I read often and encourage others to do often. This is not meant to be scholarly and is by no means exhaustive, merely my reflections on what is one of the most encouraging pieces of writing in all of Scripture. So I am sharing it with you; if you find it meaningful and want to pass it along, then be my guest. Y'all take care and be good to one another. -Jem.
Paul begins the letter with a familiar word of encouragement: “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6) Paul’s confidence in Christ to continue to work in the lives of His people is paramount. Paul experienced a true and sudden conversion, a radical 180 degree turn from his previous life to his present one. He knew firsthand that Christ is relentless in His pursuit and never gives up on any person or any circumstance. Even when we feel frustrated, worried, hopeless, or lost, Christ continues to work within us and around us.
You’ll find a lot of familiar passages in this letter. Paul continues his encouragement by reminding his audience to look after and care for one another, putting the needs of others before oneself. (2:1-11) If this seems like a difficult thing to do, that’s because it is. However, if all of us are serving each other and praying for another and lifting each other up, then we need not worry about how we are going to make it on our own. It is important that we lean into our sisters and brothers in the faith, that we may all care for and be cared for by one another. This is not only noble, but the very example of Christ, and the thing which sets Christ above all other claims to power.
Paul makes an interesting observation about righteousness as a pursuit. (3:12-16) We are saved by faith alone, but that doesn’t mean that our hearts must not be prepared to take steps in that direction. In that sense, it takes work. Not that we can be good enough or perform all the right rituals and outward acts to earn salvation, but that we must be willing to press onward towards Christ in the faith that He can and will redeem our hearts.
His closings remarks are also famous. But I think 4:8-9 are the most timely. His encouragement is for the Philippians to set their minds on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.” If there was ever a message that we all need to hear, it’s this. There’s plenty in the world right now to be upset or angry or frightened of. But Christians are a people of hope. It would do us all much better to remember that “if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things . . . and the God of peace will be with you.” This doesn’t mean we don’t act in justice and mercy when circumstances call for it, but that our minds and hearts are not consumed by our cynicism, our anger, or our fear. As people of Christ, we should look for and work to reveal the goodness in the world around us. If we are a people of hope, then our inner hearts should center on it, and our outer lives should reflect it.