Philippian Christianity – O Get Serious

This weekend worshipers in many churches will hear a reading from Philippians 2.1-13 that includes the so-called hymn to the incarnate Christ as well as Paul’s counsel for Christians to live up to the standards of love set by Christ.  If I have this right, Paul wrote the letter to a people who were living in uncertain times in which their economic status was neither high nor secure, and where the likelihood of oppression or persecution was high.

They were encouraged to be filled with love, to do nothing from selfish ambition, to be humble in their relationships with others and to be intent on helping those in need.  They were under no illusion that faith in God through Jesus Christ would somehow make life safer, more prosperous or relieved of troubles.  That wasn’t the point.  The point was that in Christ they could not simply endure but spiritually flourish no matter what their economic and political condition might thrust upon them.  Moreover, the gift of a resurrection life of great joy was already theirs by the irrevocable grace of God through Christ.

How different that is from the huge number of modern day Christians who look to Christ to solve all their problems, patrol the road of life to remove dangers, and, in some cases, to make them prosperous, even rich.  How did we get so far away from what Jesus actually taught?  How did we take on the idea of Jesus as something of a supernatural fairy godfather, presuming, of course, that the believer has the right kind of faith in the right amount and offers up his or her prayers in the right way?

Those who are so almighty intent on being “orthodox” in every way might want to take a turn in toward Philippi and leave behind the road they’re on.


PS  One of my most intimate critics says that I don’t invite enough conversation on these posts, so consider this a very open invitation.

7 thoughts on “Philippian Christianity – O Get Serious”

  1. numbers my friend, numbers.When we view success by numbers, we change the message to what will increase those numbers. When people needed a magical god, a god more powerful than others, we gave it to them. When people wanted a god on a throne, we took Christ off the cross and gave him to them. Its pretty hard to sell being a servant or slave.

  2. I guess you\’re right. I see a lot of similarity between some number driven evangelism and the popularity of casinos, slasher movies and scary theme park rides. On the one hand is the implied promise of riches to be enjoyed in an acceptably hedonistic environment. On the other hand is the vicarious, or even imminent, threat of a horrible death from which one can be, and just barely, saved time and again. How exciting is that! For the more timid we also have a form of numbers driven evangelism that offers the tamer, kiddie ride version of faith that seeks to replicate the safety and gentle fun of childhood in a more innocent time.I wonder if you could combine the two, and not into a mega-church, but into a Super Mega-Church. Could be a nice addition to Orlando or Las Vegas, and what a money maker!

  3. Steve, you wrote: \”Those who are so almighty intent on being “orthodox” in every way might want to take a turn in toward Philippi and leave behind the road they’re on.\”I read those words and thought: \”Hmm….this Steve seems to be a pretty angry and hostile guy!\” Then, I read the next paragraph which invited more conversation. Inviting conversation by someone expressing hostility to the listener before the listener has even had a chance to express an opinion….Hmmm…I think I\’ll decline until there\’s more of an inviting tone.

  4. Dear Anon,Might there be a hint of psychological transference in your note? Strong words do not always mean hostility. In fact, if I am going to take my own advice from Paul seriously, love would have to be the measuring stick. Speaking for myself, I am a \”classical\” Christian in the Anglican tradition of the Episcopal Church which means I can hold scripture to contain the holy and revealed truth of God without being inerrant, that I can hold a progressive theology that is firmly anchored in the ancient creeds of the church, and that, above all, I can hold the teachings of Jesus to have more authority than the political ramblings of some of today\’s religious leaders. These are strong words, but they are not angry words. CP

  5. Oh, and one other thing, again without hostility, just as an observation. I have not yet been able to figure out what is so orthodox about those in the American Episcopal Church who claim their own private orthodoxy as over against the alleged heresies of the rest of the Church. Take away the issues of homosexuality and women\’s ordination and then what\’s left? I suppose they could take another whack at John Spong, but what\’s the point?

  6. CP: Might there be a hint of psychological denial in your reply? :>) Just a question to ponder.BTW, your previous post on anxiety about earthly things was right on target. Thanks!

  7. What a crock! The protestant mainline used its status as the majority for generations. Now that its influence and numbers are eroding it says it\’s not interested in numbers anymore. Like an old man who used to bed dozens of women saying that he\’s given up superficial relationships. You really chose to be increasingly marginalized? It wasn\’t just decreasing birthrates, immigration, evangelicals figuring out how to use communications technology and people figuring out that you don\’t have to go to church to be respectable? None of that had anything to do with it? Hypocrite. Pitiful old hypocrite.

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