“Politic” Your Christian Life

Politics. Never in my life have I seen such a reaction and uproar over a presidential election. It’s really amazing how relevant people see the presidency and its application to everyday life. Well, as a Christian I am deeply concerned for the country I live in and the behavior of the citizens that surround me. But, just as much as my society concerns me, I am even more so concerned about the believing community that surrounds me. I am concerned that fellow Christians understand the broader importance of Christian conduct, and not merely political etiquette or conduct.

The world of politics has reminded me of a passage our local church studied a few months ago, Philippians 1:27-30. This passage is controlled by one dominating command expressed in verse 27, conduct yourselves. The term conduct literally means, “to be a citizen”.[1] It is derived from the term polis or “a city, city-state”.[2] This related word was much more than a place to live for individuals, but it was a form of identity and partnership. Citizens were expected to grow and develop in cooperation with their community for the good of their community. From a Jewish perspective the term would always point to God’s city, Jerusalem (Ps 48:2; cf. Matt 5:32). [3] The word occurs only one other time in the NT (Acts 23:1) which is where Paul uses to speak of his conduct before Council.[4] Since the term has political tones it is perfectly suitable for the Philippian saints which had many Roman citizens in their midst (Acts 16:37-39 is the only account on Paul’s missionary journey where the issue of Roman citizenship arises). Therefore, this can explain Paul’s choice of words. It provides a nuance that parallels their social context.[5]

The entire contents that follow are directly related to Christian conduct that is worthy of the gospel. Christians need to “politic” their lives to be in alignment with the Gospel. In order to do this there are several truths the believer must practice for proper Christian conduct.

#1: Christian Conduct: Stands Firm in Unity

First, Christians who “politic” their life are committed in standing firm with other saints in the faith. Paul calls them to be standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. The Christian life is not intended to be lived in isolation. Believers ought to find themselves in a community with other saints who are committed to diligent discipleship of the Savior. The emphasis of unity (“one spirit, with one mind”) indicates congregational involvement. This unity is specific directed towards the specific goal, for the faith of the gospel. Believers do not unite around sports, entertainment, or business. Believers unite around the cause of the Gospel. This unity is for Gospel application in the life of the believer and his fellow saints. This unity is for Gospel proclamation to the nations.

#2: Christian Conduct: Perseveres in Suffering

Christian conduct requires perseverance in the face of suffering. Paul tells the Philippians that they shouldn’t be, alarmed by your opponents. Faithful Christian living will face opposition. This opposition can come from many different sources. It can come from within one’s household, at the workplace, or in society. This opposition can come in many different ways. It can come in the form of verbal disagreements/abuse, physical persecution, or improper treatment. Regardless, the source or way, believers have opponents in the application and proclamation of the Gospel.

This suffering is to be viewed as a gift from God, For to you it has been granted . . . to suffer for His sake. Suffering is to be viewed as a gift from God. It is a necessary mark or experience that identifies an individual as a citizen of heaven. These citizens of heaven have not received suffering as a cruel punishment, but as a gift that works for the believers sanctification and ultimate joy.

This suffering is a community experience, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me (v. 30). There is truth to the statement, “misery loves company”. Here, Paul wants the saints to know that the same Gospel that has led to Paul’s persecution is the same Gospel that leads to their persecution. Suffering is not unique to the believing community and we find comfort in knowing that others have traveled down the pathway of suffering before. This is unique in our western culture as opposition to the Gospel has not necessarily reached the point of imprisonment or martyrdom. This doesn’t diminish the sufferings we do face for the Gospel, but can give us a perspective regarding the Gospel’s power to comfort the down trodden soul. In life’s worse scenarios, the Gospel shines forth brighter than our sufferings.

[1] Joseph H. Hellerman, Philippians, EGGNT, 77; G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, PNTC, 94.

[2] P.T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, NIGTC, 146.

[3] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, WBC, 69.

[4] Markus Bockmuehl, The Epistle to the Philippians, BNTC, 97; Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, WBC, 68.

[5] Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, 161.

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