Daily Devotion – September 16, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Philippians 1:21-30
1:21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
1:22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.
1:23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;
1:24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.
1:25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,
1:26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
1:27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,
1:28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.
1:29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well–
1:30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.         

Much of my work with churches for 30 years centered on Verse 27 of this passage, plus the Christ Hymn in Chapter 2. The YOU in “live your life” is plural. In fact, Bible scholars confirm that the NRSV’s “live your life” is far better translated “let your conversation together be” in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This is an exhortation to a community of believers, not a private sermon to each person individually. We are to speak together to make our communal decisions in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

When we do this sort of work, we surely will NOT agree. We are to bring our differences together and disagree in a worthy manner so that we will be seen by others to be striving (working hard) for the faith of the gospel. We will come at things from different perspectives and with different goals, but we are to link arms side by side in a manner worthy of the Gospel in order that God be glorified.

The “one mind” we are to strive with together is the mind of Christ, which in Chapter 2 is described as willing to empty for the sake of the other, willing to give up winning so that someone else can be saved, reconciled. Christ turns hierarchy on its head and serves the other in order to free each other (and even the whole world) into union with God the Father.  It is a beautiful vision, and we can behave into it until it is true on earth, as it will be in heaven.

What is the posture of conversation worthy of the Gospel of Christ? It is the body language of deep listening, listening that frees another person into trusting community.  May we spend the coming weeks embodying such deep listening to one another, to family and neighbors and even strangers and enemies, as we are called to do. May we be caught being worthy of the Gospel.

Gracious God, Thank you for loving us. Help us to let our communal conversations be worthy of the Gospel. Help us to give up the need to win. Help us to be caught embodying your call to us.    Amen.