"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 28, 2013

Something to Boast About

Boasting is everywhere. Last weekend, as Billy Crystal puts it, there was a huge gathering in Hollywood, where millionares gave one another gold statues. Hollywood is a rather easy target for conservative Christians, but what about the country music industry (indeed the Christian music industry), and even local artists (wherever you may be)? It is all to easy to fall into self congratulatory patterns. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13 which states, among other things, "love does not boast." Jesus' words, in contrast to  his currently politically correct repackaged image, were harsh on the matter: "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"(John 5:44) This kind of self-congratulatory praise is not in accordance with the love of God which is freely given, freely recieved and freely passed on to others. A self-oriented focus is an enemy of intimacy with God and others (even if the focus is negative).

All that being said, it may come as something of a surprise in Philippians 2 that Paul comes out and says that he longs to boast. After all, he is the same apostle who penned the words "love does not boast." As is often the case in Scripture, there is a time for everything...even boasting!

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--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 2:14-16)

Paul's labor, which he goes on to describe as an offering, was on their behalf and to the glory of Jesus. Yet, he is motivated to boast that these labors created lasting ripples for the Kingdom. As he states elsewhere, every soldier wants to please the one who enlisted him. He was enlisted by Christ on the road to Damascus. He longs to hear--well done, good and faithful servant, come enter into your reward.

I think it is safe to conclude that it is not a selfish thing to think in terms of eternal rewards. Whatever they are, they are tossed at the feet of Jesus anyway. But the words well done are ours to keep even as we remember it is God who works in us, both to desire and to do the good works he has prepared for us.

There is another aspect here that needs mention. Those who came before us and invested in us deserve our best--they count on us to do everything without arguing or complaining and to shine like stars holding out the word of life--so that their labors on our behalf will not be in vain. So much rides on our attitudes, and Paul focuses on the eternal ramifications of them here. Jesus will tell many "performers" to go away because he never knew them (there was no loving abiding relationship, only deeds). Here, Paul focuses on the heart of the matter: Christlike humility and love flowing through us for the benefit of others. As we serve others and see this heart duplicated in them, we definitely have something to boast about!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 1:4

No comments:

Post a Comment