Cross Purposes

“Some indeed preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the Gospel.” (Philippians 1:16-17)

If you read between these lines, taking nothing from the context leading up to these two verses, it looks as if Paul is the focal point, the fulcrum, for what seems to be going on in the world at large with reference to incipient Christianity. And while he is indeed addressing the Christians in Philippi (the details of which I could quite easily fill in with a simple Internet search (you’ve heard of the “Internet”, right? Capital “i”.)) and referring also to those who are taking encouragement from his sufferings, who’s to say that we can’t find ourselves in his place, in our time? Back up a bit:

“So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.” (1:13, emphasis mine)

When you meet Jesus, it’s like you’ve touched the Singularity. He is a man, the Man, but also so much more. He, more than commands attention, the concept of “attention” flows naturally back to Him. 

Paul knew (and knows) this. He says a little later on the chapter that “to live is Christ” (verse 21). John echoes a similar sentiment when he says in his gospel (1:3) that “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” A fleeting question: Do we really believe this? Moving on. When Paul identified those who were preaching Christ and yet doing so from a standpoint of things Jesus doesn’t need in order to get His message, His point across (“envy”, “strife”, “contention”), he wasn’t too concerned. He says “I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” (verse 18) In other words, you’re doing the work of God by preaching Christ! Yay. But it’s serious.

“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30)

Simply put, there’s nothing you can do against God. Rail at Him, shake your fist and hate him with all you have, and are. Spend yourself in your own righteousness and rightness and find Him the same when once all the vitriol is gone. He loves you. And He aims to shoot His arrow into your heart one way or another. But here’s the thing: after life (Paul also said “to die is gain” also in verse 21) you will get to see Him. At that point, you truly will see the Singularity. Distraction will give way to locked-in attention and you will understand (I hope I’m not spoiling anything) why Paul could have so much on his plate, so much swirling around him in spite of being locked away “for the defence of the Gospel” and then simply shrug his shoulders at the seriousness. The people to whom he was referring when he brought up their less-than-admirable evangelization/proselytization remind me of the same crowd Jesus addresses here:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

So be careful. Know the Lord, spend time with Him and worship Him. He is kinder and more ever-present than you could even think to imagine. And He loves you. But He’s serious, more serious, even, than Paul. Referring again to the unique sufferings of Paul, think about what you’re going through in this world “for the defence of the Gospel”. Jesus sees you and He understands. And when once you rub someone the wrong way in spite of having accurately represented Christ to them, they will go about their merry way. Assuming their Christian and yet if they haven’t reconciled the relationship (yours and theirs, you understand), their testimony will be compromised and they won’t be representing Christ to the best of their ability. Pray for them and love them the same. Don’t you stop loving Jesus the way He’s shown you, though. It all flows back to Him.

“For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:8)

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