Beyond Religious Infighting (Phil. 2:12-18)
I’m convinced this passage addresses the needs of our post-Christian and present-Christendom culture. I think it’s obvious that there is a profound hunger in our churches right now for a “Christological” Christianity.
I see this in both “red” and “blue” Christians who are beginning to look beyond politics for solutions to what ails us. The question is no longer conservative versus non-conservative. It has nothing to do with when Armageddon will occur. (The Christian Right tends to welcome Armageddon.)
All along the evangelical spectrum, from conservative to post-conservative, we are beginning to realize that the message of Jesus has been all but drowned out by our shallow churchianity. What counts is putting our biblical theology to work, as Paul puts it, by “holding forth the life-giving Word” in the middle of a “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15-16).
When you understand the priority of the Gospel in all things, Phil. 2:14 seems to fit the context after all. Grumbling and complaining (i.e., religious infighting) are completely inappropriate when there’s a lost world to be won for Jesus.
The real problem, as Paul puts it in 2:3-4, is our self-centeredness. Sociologists tell us that it is our self-centeredness that brings with it many of our societal problems, including a rise in divorce rates (even among Bible-believing evangelicals). Just under the surface is a refusal to take the example and power of Jesus seriously. “Therefore,” says Paul, “on the basis of the Christ-life in 2:5-11, you are to work out your own salvation even as God works it in you.”
Without reclaiming this Jesus, without getting back to the heart of the Gospel, this will never happen.
And by “Jesus” I do not mean the rebel, anti-everything Jesus of my Jesus Freak years in Hawaii, nor do I mean the liberal Jesus of some of my professors in Basel – a sort of Mister Rogers Jesus without the cardigan.
I mean the Jesus who is indifferent toward all the archys we hold so dear, the Jesus who cares less about political “solutions” to our problems, the Jesus who left His widowed mother behind and who had some pretty harsh things to say about over-allegiance to family, the Jesus who promised a cross instead of a “fix-it-all” philosophy of life, the Jesus who realized that people’s hearts are hungry for the Word of life, the Jesus who didn’t need a crowd to perform a miracle, the Jesus who said that to do God’s will is to be a citizen of the kingdom of God.
I have not written very much about this Jesus – my Why Four Gospels? is an exception – but that may very well change in the coming years.
March 5, 2009
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.