"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shine Like Stars

I have always understood the label, "movie stars." It was created a couple of decades before I was born (go ahead, young ens, laugh). If you are ready to move on, here's the point. Hollywood invented the phrase to encourage worship of certain actors. If the public worshipped them, the reasoning went, they would be eager to gobble up each new movie in which the stars were featured. There were newsreels shown in the theatres before the features, and actors faces emerged from a dark background framed by stars. They were supposedly so far above the rest of people, and it was almost implied they were, ironically, heavenly.

When the apostle Paul talked about stars in his letter to the Philippians, he had something different in mind. Previous posts have laid out the outline of the letter so far (with tedious repetition). We gather that Paul's affection for the Philippians is deep, and that they have shared the ministry of the gospel together. He has exhorted them to adopt the same attitude as Jesus Christ, reminding them that one day every knee will bow before him. The fear and trembling produced by this inevitability should bring about a desire to work out (not for) their salvation. Now he specifically spells out how they are to do this:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--

Certainly there is value in scripture memorization and even in posting verses online, but this passage, more than most, points to the importance of context. How often different verses are quoted from Philippians 2, and because they are out of context, we take them to mean one thing while context points to another. Working out our salvation is done in fear and trembling as we kneel before Jesus, and it looks like this: we do not complain or argue as we hold out the word of life. In so doing, we shine like stars in contrast to the crooked culture that surrounds us. Stop and think, have you ever heard the "fear and trembling" verse connected so directly to not arguing or complaining?

When I think of forgiveness or resisting the temptation to sit in judgment inappropriately (there is a time to judge and a time to let it go: 1 Cor. 5:12), I have often picture just this: I am on my knees before the throne of Christ alongside my offending brother. My brother and I are both in need of grace. Christ will judge, not me. There is freedom in remembering that he is God and that I am not.

Paul, somewhat surprisingly, points to the lack of arguments and complaints as evidence that our salvation is genuine. He further states that it will set us in clear contrast to the unbelievers around us. I am reminded of Jesus' prayer on the night of his betrayal that his followers would be one as he and the Father are one, and that the world will know that they are his followers by their love. (John 17:20-23)

And there is the challenge. It was Paul's measuring stick of true conversion and Jesus' dying wish. Let's be so focused on our true purpose here (to hold out the word of life) that nothing else is worth arguing or complaining about. Ask the Holy Spirit to make it so in your hearts and lives. And shine like stars.


1 comment:

  1. Again, Holy Spirit working in a topic with me. This came up in my study and Jude's awana lesson, obviously to a simpler level. Thanks for the post! Kalynn Carlton