(August 25, 2017) Phil. 1:3-11 raises a host of vitally important (and interesting!) questions of interpretation, including:
- The use of the middle voice with certain verbs
- The use of eis for en
- Ambiguity (for example, is touto in v. 3 anaphoric or cataphoric?)
- The post-positioning of adjectives
- The debate over the grammatical subject of echein in 1:7
- The first use in the letter of sun– as a prepositional prefix morpheme (13 total occurrences)
- Why does the Majority Text supply estin after mou in 1:8?
- Why is a perfect participle used in 1:11?
I had to smile when I read Paul’s words in 1:10: ” … so that you may choose what is best.” I was on a “Christian Agrarianism” website the other day where the author actually stated that Christian Agrarianism is the “only answer to America’s problems.” Hmm …. I’m a Christian. And I’m an agrarian. But I’ll leave “Christian Agrarianism” solutions to others. This morning I was also perusing websites whose authors enjoy commenting on the virtues and ills of everything from Donald Trump to the alt right to Black Lives Matter to Confederate statues. They, too, seem to think that involvement in politics will provide the solution to what ails us as a nation. The problem is that the movement Jesus came to establish — the kingdom of God — can’t be identified with Christianity as a religion. In fact, any religion, Christian or otherwise, that doesn’t look like Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies and even die for them, contrasts with the kingdom of heaven. As the Anabaptists have shown us, politics and religion simply don’t mix. How important is this? Read Paul’s words in Phil. 1:10 again. We have to “chose what is best” in life — and this “best,” Paul says, is nothing other than living as citizens of heaven in a manner required by the Gospel (please read 1:27). This includes the Matthews (conservatives) and the Simon the Zealots (liberals) in our midst. The problem is, once you invite politics into the kingdom realm, you introduce polarizing claims, and one thing we don’t need any more of today in our fellowships is division. Maybe if we stopped blaming government for our ills and began looking to the Gospel as the only solution to our problems, we’d see some genuine change. I don’t mind if you express your political beliefs on your blog. Have at it. Each of us is trying to make sense of the current political condition of our nation the best we can. But as followers of King Jesus, and as disciples in His upside-down kingdom, I don’t believe that’s where our time and energy is to be spent. That’s aiming at the wrong bull’s-eye. “I believe it’s time to stop seeking God in the misguided and erroneous teachings of do-goodism, whether the source is liberalism or conservatism,” I wrote in the Welcome page to my website. “Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise plaguing our families, our churches, and our society.” If we as Christians would start doing what we’re called to do, then maybe we would stop telling Caesar what he ought to do and just begin doing it ourselves.