There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise. Brené Brown.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:17-18)
The critics and cynics and fearmongers…
As we read the Apostle Paul, we see how he had people problems. Does anyone reading this have a people problem?? Think: controlling parent, angry teen, uncaring boss, competitive co-worker, mean teacher, emotionally detached partner, betrayal by a friend… Or what about a problem in our culture? Corrupt politicians, mass incarceration, illiteracy, toxic social media, neighbors threatened with deportation…
Some people read today’s passage and assume Paul was calling everyone outside his group an enemy. To many vocal Christians in today’s world, an “enemy of Christ” would be anyone who does not share that Christian’s view of the Bible and brand of morality.
Paul was referring to something else entirely. Here’s the background: Philippi was a Roman Colony. And naturally the citizens of Phillipi resented some of the tactics used by Rome to keep the colonial citizens in line: Violence, control, unjust economic practices, ethnic persecution. And! The oldest trick in the book: “Bow down to our emperor, or off to jail you go.” Furthermore, Paul had trouble with people in his own religion—fundamentalists who were pushing a purity agenda over and against the actual Good News of Jesus.
So, Paul is sick and tired of the cynics, critics and fearmongers of the day. And he is beseeching his little group to discover (and use) their true power. Paul knows he has discovered the secret of contentment and actual influence, and he wants to empower his listeners to follow his example in dealing with both petty and life-threatening challenges while remaining hopeful and full of faith.
Chapter 11 of Rising Strong is about pulling together the key learnings of the rising strong process, and beginning to apply them faithfully. The chapter ends with The Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted—a celebration of those who choose to work through life’s challenges with True Power. The manifesto is an apt summary of what Paul has in mind when he says, “imitate me and people who live out a good example.”
Tomorrow, we will continue into the high-point of Philippians, where Paul describes the place of belonging for everyone who chooses life along the Jesus Way.
LORD God, point me to the people worth imitating and following. Help me be a good example and lead the way for others.