“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” (Philippians 2: 14-16 NIV)
Over the years we’ve seen three of our capital cities featured in the Top 10 of the World’s Most Liveable Cities. Melbourne was given the highest honour on this list in 2011. The Economist Group that develops this list says these cities are “ideal destinations thanks to a widespread availability of goods and services, low personal risk and an effective infrastructure.”
Just before Christmas last year, the mother of a Korean friend was visiting from Seoul to join in family celebrations.
One evening, just after dinner at dusk, I was summoned in Korean with great excitement. I had no idea what Umma (mum) was saying but she stood on the back deck pointing at the moon. I asked Jee Hea what the commotion was about. To my surprise Umma rarely gets to see the moon as clearly as she can here in Melbourne. In her hometown the constant haze, mixed with Seoul’s abundant lights, makes it virtually impossible to see the moon we take for granted. They can only do so by making an intentional journey far out into the country.
Looking at the moon wasn’t such a big deal, but the realization that many people in the world have their view obscured by pollution struck a chord with me. I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the state of the spiritual world that we are leaving to our children.
We have to take drastic steps to save our environment for the future, but our most important inheritance, that of our faith in Christ, is being eroded and dulled before our eyes, without hardly a challenge. The line between being ‘in the world’ and ‘of the world’ seems to have shrunk to almost a hairline in width, rather than the chasm that should show Christians as being fundamentally different.
Paul says we should be ‘children of God without fault’ which is in stark contrast to being part of a ‘crooked and depraved generation.’ (Philippians 2:14)
Just like the bright moon Umma gazed at, as though for the first time late last year, Paul gives us a picture where Christians “shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:15). This is a beautiful metaphor for how the world should see us. But do they? Or have we let the pollution of the world come between us.
Paul had a few thoughts worth considering:
- Be like-minded with your Christian brothers and sisters (Philippians 2:2). Have the same love for Christ and each other. Remember those times when your faith was on fire and you wanted everyone to know about Jesus Christ. Those building times were inspirational because you worked together with a single purpose and a can-do spirit of cooperation.
- Be humble and focus on what ‘WE’ will achieve. (Philippians 2:3-4). Each of us is called by God to contribute to the growth of His Kingdom, not ours. And while it is important to know and use our giftings, we are warned of putting ourselves onto any pedestal from which we might fall.
- Be open to how God will use you. (Philippians 2:13). We’ve all heard of the ‘ME’ generation. And while we attribute this to Generation Y, it takes but a few seconds when you are out shopping, or watching the TV, to realise that ME is the most important person today. To be a shining star requires us to give God permission to ‘work in [us] you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” This thinking is counter culture, but submission to God’s will is the only way for us to show others what we’re really made of.
- Present your best side. (Philippians 2:14-15). Life is full of ups and downs but we need to be in control of our feelings and emotions. Pauls tells us not to complain or argue as this gives the wrong message and diminishes our ‘Godly’ character traits in front of others. When others look at us they should see Christ in the way we interact with the world, and see God’s work changing us from within.
Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi wasn’t just about being good people, or about presenting a façade of ‘niceness’. We are to live the Word within our world, displaying the traits that mark us as followers of Christ. Paul says that when we “hold out the word of life.” (v16), those around us will see us as bright, attractive, mesmerizing, stars.