“Some of the meanest people I’ve met were Christians.”
It stings. And it stings every time I hear this defense mechanism put up by someone who is starting to make their journey from sin towards Jesus.
Perhaps in some ways this is hyperbole.
But I’ve met those “Christians”. So have you.
Whether or not this expression is hyperbole, we all possess enough anecdotal evidence to know there’s truth to this. And it has turned more people away from faith than brought. How many people have come to Jesus because we argued them into the Kingdom of Heaven? My count so far is zero.
This. Is. Unacceptable.
The Bible seems to think so too. As we continue walking through the letter of Philippians, we read in Philippians 2:14-15
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:14-15, NIV
These three verses don’t get put on many Christian-themed encouragement cards. At least, I’ve not seen them. I wonder if I made some and published them would they sell…
It’s verse fourteen we struggle with. “Everything”? Really?! Does Paul really mean every single thing we do in life should be done without a spirit of discontentment?
In the context of this letter, he’s telling Christians to focus on the unity of the church by avoiding a spirit of discontentment. After all, the world is watching the church as a test case for the effectiveness of the Gospel.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written these words (I feel like I write them weekly!): If the Gospel can’t change us in the church, it is useless for those outside the church. This is the spiritual reality of our mission field.
When we put ourselves aside and abandon our egos and focus on the mission of God, the unity, peace, and love exhibited makes us shine like stars before a dark, cold world needing to see something—anything—able to provide real answers to life.
Jesus said it, too. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” our Lord said in John 13:35 (NIV) “if you love one another.”
It won’t be our buildings making us “shine among them like stars”.
It won’t be our programs making us “shine among them like stars”.
It won’t be our clichés making us “shine among them like stars”.
It won’t be our social programs making us “shine among them like stars”.
It won’t even be our presence in the world making us “shine among them like stars”.
It will be our love for each other. Remember: if the Gospel can’t change US, it won’t change THEM.
Let’s stop arguing and grumbling with each other and live in unity, peace, and love with each other as the Holy Spirit offers to provide.