Category Archives: Reflections

Response to Relevant’s “Why Don’t the Guys in my Church Ask Women on Dates?”

Recently Relevant Magazine published an article answering a question from a woman asking why Christian men are not asking Christian women on dates. The response to the question basically, from my POV, seems to place the majority of the blame on bad dating advice given in the 80’s and 90’s which seemed to have equated going on a date with someone with intending to marry them (I personally can’t comment on this issue as I did not grow up in such Christian circles). This is no doubt terrible advice and should certainly be discarded, as the response rightly advises people to do so in my opinion. However there a few other things related to this issue that the article did not touch on that I would like to address.

First, there is an assumption in the question which I believe is wrong. The question states, “Where are all the brave men? … This is why so many women date non-Christians; because Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date…” The assumption here seems to be that many Christian women date non-Christian men because Christian men can rarely keep things casual (presumably because of the effects of the aforementioned bad dating advice), however I believe that this assumption is invalid. Assuming of course the assertion that many Christian women date non-Christian men is even true in the first place (and I’m not doubting that it is, though it certainly could be false), I propose instead the reason for this (many Christian women dating non-Christian men) is not primarily because of the inability of Christian men to keep things casual, but rather instead because there are significantly less Christian men than women (see here and here). The more important and significant question is, “Where are all the Christian men?”

Answering this question is a fairly complex endeavor, and I will not attempt to do so completely here, but I think the most likely reason is that generally men respond to challenge moreso than displays of affection. Growing up I consistently heard of how much Jesus loves me. And while I am certainly grateful that this is the case, this reality does not motivate me to live the Christian life. I get far more motivation from the challenge of holding onto my Faith in the midst of attacks from demons, secularism, atheism, scientism, pantheism, etc than I do from Christ’s displays of love.

Second, there is no single answer as to why the men in a certain church are not asking out the women in that church. It seems like what Erica (the one who posed the question) is wanting is more casual dates with men in her Church in order to get to know them better, presumably to see if there is enough to build a more serious relationship on, and the article rightly notes that there is nothing wrong with this. Personally I am in favor of more casual dating within the Church (e.g. the kind where you go get coffee) as I think it is a great (and efficient) way to get to know someone and gauge future relationship potential.

Why this lack of casual dating exists however is also a complex problem, and one that I will also not seek to completely address here. However I believe that to put the blame for this lack entirely on men is short sighted. From my POV it seems that the issue is, again generally speaking, that each gender has been so segregated from the other that they are mystified and confused by the other with the result being that they actually don’t know how to be just friends with the other gender.

In the end I am personally in favor of more casual dating, but I think more people need to get on board with it, both men and women (and also parents of youth). Having coffee and chatting with someone for a while is really not a big deal and is nothing to be afraid of, even when it involves teenagers in my opinion. The desire for romance is a natural and healthy one, a desire that we should be honoring and embracing in a healthy and godly way and teaching future generations to do so as well. Treating dating as essentially pre-marriage isn’t the way to do this.

Christianity is Not a Contract!

Diablo 3 - Tyrael

Tyrael of Diablo fame.

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” — C.S. Lewis

A fairly common question I see asked regarding Christianity is, “Is it okay to do _________?” I recently saw such a question posed again and I thought to myself, “Why is this question even being asked? What theological framework allows for such a question to even be asked in the first place?” As I thought about the answer to these questions I realized that to ask if a certain behavior is “okay” is to approach Christianity with the assumption that it is a contract entered into between a person and God, an assumption I believe is invalid.

In a contract two parties agree to fulfill certain responsibilities and it remains in effect as long as the terms of the contract are not breached. Such an approach sets up the expectation that as long as we do not breach the “contract” God will still fulfill His side of the deal and give us a place in heaven. And since we are by nature sinful and evil beings we then try to seek out what the bounds of this contract are; we ask ourselves, “How far can I go? What sort of loopholes can I find that will allow me to do what I want and fulfill my desires without breaching this contract?” It is this mindset I believe that leads to the question, “Is it okay for a Christian to do _________?”

Such a mindset is, I believe, taught nowhere in Scripture. We are taught that we were created by God, in His image, and were commanded to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1.26-28). In order to sustain us He gave us the plants and the trees and their fruits (Gen. 1.29) and of the trees the only prohibition was from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and if we did so we would die (Gen. 2.17). So we see that one tree leads to death, while all the others (including the tree of life [Gen. 3.22]) lead to life. Thus we had two ways set before us, one of life and another of death, and we had to walk in one or the other, there were no alternatives. For if we ate of the trees that were allowed, we would live and fill the earth and subdue it; and if we ate of the tree of which eating was prohibited, we would die; and if we had tried to be “neutral” and not eaten of any of the trees we also would have died as we require sustenance by our nature.

Even though we chose the way leading to death, the way to life was not thereby made unavailable to us, for we were prevented from eating from the tree of life, which would have resulted in us living forever in our fallen state (Gen. 3.22). Thus God cast us out of the Garden in order to work the ground from which we were taken (Gen. 3.23-24) in order that we might learn that the way of life was now through repentance and trust (Isa. 30.15).

The Commandments given through Moses were given in order that we might know more clearly which way leads to life and which leads to death. For at the beginning of the list of blessings for following the commandments it is written, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 28.1. Or in other words, they would subdue the earth. But concerning the curses it is written, “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.” – Deuteronomy 28.45. Or in other words they would die.

The New Testament also presents two ways, one of death and another of life, and these two ways are opposed to each other. Representative of this are the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians 5.16-26:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Thus Scripture does not present us with a contract, but with a choice, a choice between two ways, one which leads to life and another which leads to death. In Advent we are called to recognize our sinfulness and repent as we await the coming of our Lord. Let us do this so that when He comes we will be found working as the wise servant and serving others (Matt. 24.45-47) and not as the unwise one and be found exploiting and beating them (Μatt. 24.48-51). Let us continue on the way of life. Let our prayer throughout this Advent season truly be:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

 

 

The Problem of Death

Last Spring I started watching the show Vikings that airs on the History Channel, and one of the most striking things for me about the show is how there is no fear of death in Viking culture. An example of this can be found in an episode when an old man asks to go on the raid that is coming up in the spring so that he can die in battle and go to Valhalla and drink with the gods. This belief was so embedded in his mind that it affected his actions to the extent that he was trying to die in battle and considered himself cursed by the gods that this had not happened to him. And if you’re curious, he does indeed die in battle in the episode following his introduction into the series and the main character of the series, Ragnar Lothbrok, smiles, confident that his friend is indeed drinking with the gods.

I also recently re-watched the movie 300. The Spartans that marched out to meet the Persians also showed no fear of death. In fact, much like the aforementioned Viking, they too seemed to welcome death since Leonidas told his soldiers on the final day of the battle to eat a good breakfast because they were going to dine in Hell that night.

After watching these I began to think upon Christian culture, and more specifically the Christian culture of the past. In the days of the early Church many saints welcomed martyrdom at the hands of their persecutors. And when Christianity became legal and martyrdom was no longer an option the monastic movement began and offered a way for those who wished to be martyrs, but were not being persecuted, a way to “die” for their faith.

Then I began to think about my current American culture and I realized that instead of welcoming death, we fear death. In fact, this fear of death seems to be one of the things fueling our rising healthcare costs (see this 60 minutes clip: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-cost-of-dying/). How is it possible that ancient cultures seemed to have no fear of death, with some even welcoming it, while us modern day Americans are petrified of it?

My conclusion is rather simple: our culture does not teach us that death is the biggest problem in life. Our culture teaches us that pain is the biggest problem in life, and death is naturally the biggest pain of all. So we put much of our time and resources into trying to avoid any and all types of pain. We go to college so that we can have good paying jobs and be financially secure so that we can live comfortably and our family can live comfortably as well. When we get terminally ill we pull out all the stops in an effort to live as long as possible, even if it is only a few days longer at a cost of $10,000 or more. All this is done, I think, in an effort to avoid as much pain as possible. I disagree with my culture on many things, but this may perhaps be the biggest disagreement of all. This teaching focuses our energy and attention on avoiding something that we will never be able to avoid no matter how hard we try. Our culture should instead teach us that pain and death are things that will happen to us and teach us to embrace them.

The main problem that life produces for me is the problem of death. Nothing is quite as terrifying to me as thinking about my own inevitable death. Every other problem that life produces I think I could deal with without too much issue, but death is something that causes a major problem for me because there is no way that I can possibly avoid it.

Right now I am being pushed against my will towards the cliff of death. But I don’t want to be pushed. I want to run towards it as fast as I can and jump off and greet whatever awaits on the other side with open arms. Can I be a Viking? Can I be a Spartan? Can I be a Christian?

The Sun Shines Even in the Cold

There’s a weather phenomenon that I’ve become familiar with since moving to Texas: sunny and cold. To a native Floridian like myself it seems quite strange that it could be sunny and yet the surrounding air feel cold at the same time. These two things should not go together. The sun is warm. It produces heat and makes things warm. How could the sun be brightly shining and yet the air around me be cold? Is the sun somehow defective?

There’s a spiritual phenomenon that I’ve become familiar with during my life: sunny and cold. To a life-long Christian like myself it seems quite strange to have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and yet for them to feel distant at the same time. These two things should not go together. God indwells me. God is near me. How can God indwell me and yet feel distant? Is God somehow defective?

In reality I know that the sun is not defective; it is producing as much heat as it always has. Yet this does not make me feel any warmer.

In reality I know that God is not distant from me; He is as close as He always has been. Yet this does not make Him feel any closer.

If I put on a coat I will feel warmer, but this will not change the fact that the air around me feels cold.

If I spend time praying, reading Scripture, worshiping with others, and fellowshiping with others I will feel encouraged and persevere in my faith, but this will not change the fact that God feels distant.

I know that it is only a matter of time before winter ceases and the air around me feels warm once again. I must persevere through the winter if I want to feel it again.

I know that it is only a matter of time before winter ceases and God feels near to me once again. I must persevere through the winter if I want to feel it again.

When winter comes around again, and you are huddled around the dying fire of your faith, clinging desperately to every scrap of warmth, wondering why things are not the way they seem like they should be, take note of those around you because they have passed the test. The spiritual winters in our lives, those times when God feels distant and we struggle with our faith, are tests not only for those of us who are in the midst them, but also for our Christian brethren who see us in the midst of them.

The sun does not cease to shine during winter.

God does not cease to be near us during our winters.

We should not cease to be near our Christian brethren in their winters. They are not expecting us to bring about spring. They just don’t want to be alone during the winter. Do not merely pray for them, but huddle with them around their dying fire, however low it may be. God has not abandoned either of you and will see both of you through. Spring will come, and it will be evident then that God is in you because you have loved as God loves.

I Like The New Pope

If I were a Roman Catholic I think I would be really proud right about now. I think the new Pope has set a good example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to be a servant of all.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)

This new Pope seems to have rejected the luxuries that previous Popes have embraced in favor of showing himself to be on equal footing with others. Peggy Noonan notes several things that point to the humility of Pope Francis:*

  • His plain regalia as he stood on the balcony
  • Request for crowd to pray for him before he prayed for them
  • Loves the poor and even gave the cardinal’s palace in Buenos Aires to a missionary order that had no money
  • Lives in an apartment
  • Cooks his own food
  • Rides the bus
  • Picks up his own luggage
  • Pays his own hotel bill
  • Shuns security
  • Refuses a limousine
  • Gets on a minibus with the cardinals
  • Visits a church in a modest car in rush hour traffic
  • Greeted the people before greeting the Vatican officials and staffers following his election
  • Reportedly refuses to sit on a throne and meets his fellow cardinals standing
The White Crucifixion by Chagall

The White Crucifixion by Chagall, reportedly Pope Francis’ favorite painting

Many people seem to be hoping for change with this new Pope and I think change is exactly what they’re going to get, though perhaps not the change they are hoping for. The new Pope will probably not institute any progressive reforms or change the church’s stance on gay marriage, abortion, or contraception; this is not the change Catholicism needs.

The change Catholicism needs is a change of heart and mind, and I think the new Pope is quite capable of instituting this change if he continues being the servant that he seems to have been his entire life. It seems to this Protestant that for too long the Roman Church has communicated (whether intentionally or not) that it is superior to the people and its job is to rule over the people and the people are to serve them. This is a reversal of the order that Jesus intended for His followers. Jesus called His disciples to be servants of all, just as He was a servant of all and laid down His life for all.

If the Roman Church can embody this simple principle of servanthood it will bring some long overdue change to Roman Catholicism. People need to see Rome as interested in serving them rather than ruling over them. Once this change happens I think people will begin to see and embrace the God that Rome has over zealously protected these many years. They will begin to see that Jesus came to give life to His followers, not to scare or force them into obeying His teachings with the threat of eternal damnation. Pope Francis seems to understand this.

My hope and prayer is that Pope Francis continues what appears to be a great example of servanthood and that his example permeates throughout the Roman Church. Like it or not the Roman Church is the face of Christianity in the west, and a well received and appreciated Roman Church is good for the rest of western Christendom; we are yolked to them whether we like it or not.

*My apologies if you have issues viewing Noonan’s article. If you cannot view it please let me know.

What Jesus Prayed For: John 17

While I was on vacation over New Year’s I had the privilege to lead a Bible study on John 17. What follows is a summary of what was taught and discussed.

Essentially Jesus’ prayer for us can be summed up in the concept of abiding in him and in the image of Jesus as the vine and us as the branches (John 15.1-17). Abiding in Christ means following his commands (1 John 2.5-6; 3.4-10), which flows out of love for God (John 14.15, 21, 23; 15.10, 14; 1 John 5.2-3), which begins with believing that Jesus is the Christ (promised in Genesis 3.15) who has restored access to the Father (1 John 1.5; 2.24) and receiving the Holy Spirit who enables us to keep God’s commands.

So then, Jesus’ prayer for us is this: that we would recognize that we are separated from the Father and can only have access to him through Jesus. Once this is truly believed one will then love God and obey His commands, through the help of the Holy Spirit, thus abiding in Him.

This abiding achieves the unity amongst believers (vv. 11, 21), protection from the evil one (v. 15), and the sanctification that Jesus prayed for (v. 17). The unity because all believers are united to the Father through Jesus who is the only way to the Father (John 14.6; Remember also the vine imagery). The protection because all believers will be in the hands of the Father and none can snatch them out of the Father’s hand (John 10.29). The sanctification because all believers obedience to God’s commands results in the purifying of their souls (1 Peter 1.22-23).

We can see the results of our submission to this abiding process in Jesus’ prayer for himself in vv. 1-5, which was for God to be glorified despite knowing that it would entail his own death (see Matthew 16.21, 17.23, 20.19; Luke 9.22, 18.33; Mark 8.31, 9.31, 10.32-34; John 2.19-21; 12.24). The laying down of our own lives for our friends is the greatest expression of love (John 15.13) and evidences that the love with which the Father loves Jesus is in us (v. 26).

I think it is important to realize that ultimately Jesus prayed for us to abide in him. This is a simple yet hard thing to do, but it is all he wants us to do. He wants us to follow him and trust his leading. He is the good shepherd and we are his sheep (10.7-17). He will take care of us and wants us to trust him to do it (Matthew 6.25-34).

For more on this concept read and study 1 John.

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12.1 ESV)

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6.25-34 ESV)

At first glance these passages may not seem to be relevant to each other, but they are in fact inseparable for living the Christian life. In the first passage we are commanded to be living sacrifices; to offer all of ourselves in the service of Christ; to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22.37; Mark 12.30; Luke 10.27). Jesus called this the “great and first commandment” (Matthew 22.38 ESV); “first” because it is the most important commandment and “great” because it is the furthest outside humanity’s ability to keep in our own strength.

The reason for humanity’s difficulty in keeping this commandment is that every human, even Christians, possess a sinful nature that is sometimes referred to as the “flesh” (See Romans 6-7; James 4.1-17; Galatians 5.16,17). Basically this nature opposes God and seeks either its own will or the will of Satan (this topic is deserving of further explanation, but such an explanation would make this post obscenely long). Since all possess a nature that inclines them towards fulfilling their own desires instead of God’s, and since humanity is naturally inclined to follow it, it is much more familiar and comfortable than following the Holy Spirit.

However if you are going to follow God you must begin to follow the Spirit and not satisfy the desires of the flesh. It is impossible to serve both God and the flesh (Matthew 6.24; Luke 16.13). So what happens when you start trying to live a way that is unfamiliar to you and you put your trust in someone that you cannot see? Well, you become anxious. Hence the teaching of Jesus in the second passage.

Jesus sees us as we really are, Fallen nature and all. He knows that when we begin to trust in him and follow the Spirit that we will become anxious because we have left our familiar and comfortable way of doing things. This is why he taught us to not be anxious. And because he knew that there was no way for us to leave our comfortable, sinful, and Fallen way of living life in our own strength he became human, died, and rose in order to pay our debt and make it possible for us to leave our selfish way of living behind and live for Christ instead.

These two passage are like peanut butter and jelly: they complement each other. Offer all of yourself for the service of Christ and don’t be anxious when you do it because you have left your familiar ways of doing things. You are more valuable than the birds and plants whom God takes care of, so he will certainly take care of you as well.

Just give up, it’s better for everyone

Flower

One is the loneliest number…

One thing that never ceases to amaze me about humanity is our propensity to forget things so quickly; I even amaze myself in this area. What is even more amazing is that I even forget my own personal thoughts and words quite often! Remember this post I made about community back in September? Well by the time November rolled around I had already forgotten what I said about community because I had to be reminded of my thoughts by an article in the student paper.

The article was entitled “Forgotten Flowers” and it compared single women with flowers in a field that grow and come into bloom so that they can be enjoyed by someone, but never are and die forgotten. Once I had finished reading I felt sorry for these Forgotten Flowers because their beauty was never enjoyed by anyone and they died unappreciated.

Disclaimer: I am not a woman and I am not looking at the article as I write this post. So if I am inaccurate in what I say following this feel free to correct me.

I also felt convicted that my attitude and outlook on marriage was not inline with God’s view. I am by no means opposed to marriage, but my attitude had shifted from desiring marriage (a few years ago) all the way over to the opposite extreme of desiring to be single because I didn’t want to be burdened with the demands of marriage in ministry. Now singleness is also not wrong by any means either, but what I felt convicted on was not that I wanted to be single, but my reasons for wanting to be single: it was motivated by a selfish desire rather than a God-given calling.

If, as the article seemed to state, that generally speaking marriage is something that women need in order to feel appreciated and part of a community (see disclaimer) then my attitude of wanting to be single because it would inconvenience me is most definitely wrong. If we never give up our desires and put others before ourselves (Philippians 2.3; Ephesians 4.2, 5.21; Romans 12.10) then we have absolutely no hope of achieving any type of community in the Body of Christ. My attitude was one of not willing to give up my own desires in order to benefit others in the Body of Christ and God rightly convicted me of this.

As of right now I do not have any clear direction from God concerning marriage or singleness. Neither has received a definite “yes” and neither has received a definite “no.” Whether God calls me to singleness or marriage I will accept it, but only on the basis that it is what God has called me to. For me cultivating this attitude has been a long and hard journey, but hopefully I am finally nearing the end of it.

I don’t appreciate Jesus

A passage from Hebrews stood out to me recently:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)

Body of Christ

What stood out to me about these verses was the fact of how little I appreciate this part of Jesus’

ministry, but it was probably one of the most appreciated aspects of Jesus’ ministry for early Christians, especially Jewish Christians. No doubt the need for a priest to mediate between God and man was engrained in the mind of the early Jewish Christians through the requirement of the sacrificial system that the priest present a person’s offering before God in the proper manner. God Himself was the one that instituted this system in the Law, not man, so it was a requirement of God that there be a priest to mediate between Himself and humankind. The Law was not abolished by Jesus, but fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). This being the case then there is still a need for mediator between God and man, a role which every human priest fulfill imperfectly and insufficiently, but a role which Jesus fulfills perfectly and sufficiently.

I admit that I do not appreciate this aspect of Jesus’ ministry and often take it for granted, but I recognize that this should not be my attitude. The need for a mediator can be seen in God’s dealings with the first Exodus generation: He wiped out that entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb), even Moses, because of their sin. The lesson to be learned from this is that we, like that first Exodus generation, are too sinful, rebellious, and stubborn, or in a word, Fallen, for us to deal directly with God. There must be a mediator between God and us, otherwise we will be destroyed.

God is holy. We are Fallen. These are two simple, foundational truths of the Christian faith that are very hard for us to truly know. Intellectual consent to these beliefs is one thing, but believing them so that they effect how we live your lives is quite another. If I can truly learn these two basic truths then I think I will come to appreciate Jesus’ ministry as high priest the way I should appreciate it.

What is conduct worthy of the Gospel?

I wanted to share a quick thought with you all that I had last week while reading the Scriptures. It comes from Philippians 1:27-30, which says:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

(Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)

What occurred to me after reading this is what living in a manner worthy of the Gospel actually entails. In this passage, which is a complete paragraph by the way, what is described is striving side by side with others for the Faith and standing firm against opposition. Suffering for the cause of Christ is also described as an honor. For my part, I find it hard to see this attitude in American Christianity these days. Suffering is at least being talked about these days, at least in some Christian circles, but from my experience it seems to focus mostly on helping people to endure it. And while this is certainly a good thing it doesn’t give suffering the place that Paul bestows on it in this passage, that it is an honor to suffer for the cause of Christ. How transforming would it be not only for us personally, but for American Christianity as a whole, if suffering was elevated to the level of being honorable?

Also, being conflicted between continuing to live in the flesh and departing to be with Christ (the “conflict” in the last sentence; see Philippians 1:18-26) should be expected. Do we have this attitude? Do we experience this conflict frequently in our lives? I know that I don’t, but I also know that I would like to.

This is conduct worthy of the Gospel, how does it compare with what you have been taught is conduct worthy of the Gospel?