August 9, 2017
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Paul is in jail, and, if I’m reading it right, it sounds like some of the preachers back in Philippi are having a heyday with it. They are stirring up trouble. I suspect Paul’s reputation is taking a severe hit. The are seizing the opportunity to kick him while he’s down.
We don’t mean to do this, but we all have a tendency toward it. We create false narratives based on incomplete and often inaccurate information, and we go with it. Here’s how such a conversation might have gone:
Average Church Member in Philippi: Did you hear the news? Paul is in prison in Rome.
Jealous Underling Preacher: Yes, we heard. I feel bad for him, but it’s becoming a pattern for him.
Average Church Member in Philippi: What do you mean? Some of us were wanting to take up a collection to help him.
Jealous Underling Preacher: I mean, don’t you remember what happened right here in Phillipi? He was thrown in jail here and got Silas arrested too.
Average Church Member in Philippi: But don’t you remember the way the church prayed for them and the miraculous way they were delivered from prison? I wasn’t here then, but I’ve heard the amazing story.
Jealous Underling Preacher: Right. You mean the earthquake? And then Paul got all high-handed with them about arresting a Roman citizen. I will be honest—a lot of us were glad to see Paul go, and now he’s back in jail and asking us for help. The guy’s a troublemaker.
Average Church Member in Philippi: I guess I didn’t realize all of that. I thought Paul was pretty loved around here.
Jealous Underling Preacher: Yes, isn’t that how it always is—people hear what they want to hear. And, as for the money, there are so many needs right here in our backyard. How can we justify sending more money to a glorified ex-con? . . . I mean present con.
Average Church Member in Philippi: I hear what you are saying. We will see what happens.
Isn’t that how it always happens?
So, how would you have responded in Paul’s position? I may have said something like, “Are you kidding me? Do you believe a single word that jealous underling preacher has to say? Consider the source. He knows you all listen to me and wants me out. This is his chance. Just ask Epaphroditus. He will tell you the truth. You all should send this guy packing.”
Paul had gotten word about this, but rather than entering the fray and taking on these jealous underling preacher types, he gave them the benefit of the doubt.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry . . . The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
That, my friends, is what you call a mature Christian response. Jesus wins, and because Jesus wins we may endure losses, but we will not lose. That’s the secret sauce of a mature Christian disposition.
Lord Jesus, yours is the name that is above every name. We thank you that we bear your name, which means we can be truly humble. Help us when we are misrepresented or maligned to not take it personally but to instead take the high road. Grow us up into maturity, even the fullness of Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Why do we have such a need to defend and vindicate ourselves when we are done wrong as Paul was in Philippi?
- How can we make a better response than the average church member in Philippi?
- What keeps us from taking the high road in such gossipy scenarios as this one?
For the Awakening,
P.S. – You can order a hard copy of this series here.