Daily Devotion 11 June 2021
Philippians 2:12-18 ‘Shining as Lights in the World’
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you – 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
The opening of Philippians 2 is so famous that verse 12 onwards tends to get aired rather less often. But it’s beautiful, and so deserves an airing today! Paul’s gifts as a writer and facility with language are clear – note his couplets; ‘murmuring and arguing’; ‘blameless and innocent’; people of faith in the midst of a ‘crooked and perverse’ generation. They reinforce his message and emphasize the quality of those who would be followers of Jesus Christ.
‘Blameless and innocent’ is an interesting pair – at first glance they mean the same thing, yes? Maybe not, ‘innocent’ can also infer being somehow separate from the world, not too street-wise – maybe even a little naïve if we wanted to push the definition. Matthew recorded Jesus as issuing the following guidance: ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (10:16). Are we supposed to be street-wise Christians in the midst of the troubles of modern life – or are we called to be slightly separate and removed from such difficulties and keep away from troubled situations and people?
In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, the main character, Prince Myshkin, is one of the least worldly-wise people you can imagine. He’s definitely naïve/innocent, and makes no attempts whatsoever to appear otherwise. In the various situations in which he finds himself, he is called an ‘idiot’ many times by people often in dark or complicated scenarios involving relationships, marriage, money or machinations – as they assume he simply doesn’t understand what’s going on and can’t grasp the complexities of the social situations involved. It couldn’t be further from the truth – he does! Prince Myshkin may appear to be an ‘idiot’ to some of the others, but in fact he is honest, self-aware, honourable, intelligent, and sympathetic – his qualities shine through.
Following Jesus Christ as Lord may sometimes lead us to be slightly removed from the values and priorities of others around us; we may feel pulled away from situations and scenarios which don’t feel right, in order to preserve our faith and integrity. However, we may also just as often be called to be in the midst of all the chaos and conflict of the world to be Christ’s peace – and risk being ridiculed for doing so. God’s love with shine through us, and we can rejoice knowing we are serving our Lord and Saviour.
Grant us feet to take us to your places, Lord; hands to reach out to those in need;
eyes to recognize life in all its complexity, but above all, hearts full of your love. Amen.
Reflection & Prayer © 2021 Paul Tabraham.
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