Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 147:1-11, Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17 (18), Philippians 4:1-13, John 12:27-36
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Paul shares these words in the concluding paragraphs of his letter to the church at Philippi. He also exhorts them to rejoice, to be known for their gentleness, and to attain peace by making their requests known to God through prayer and supplication.
Notice that the keys to peace are found in our relationship with God and in how we engage our hearts and minds. Is this what the church seems to focus on today, or do we spend a lot of time worrying about what other “sinners” – Christian or not – are doing wrong? Certainly throughout his letters Paul offers advice on how to deal with church members who are damaging the community through sin or conflict, but these are exceptions – extreme examples. And in the case of non-Christians, Paul tells us to mind our own business. If we find ourselves preoccupied with (or worse yet, eagerly anticipating) how and when to condemn people or (lovingly?) kick them to the curb, maybe it’s time for some serious self-examination.
Lifelong self-examination is a vital component of following Christ. God doesn’t ask us to examine anyone else’s heart, because we can’t know it. The primary question on our minds should not be “Are other people following Christ?” Rather we should be asking “Am I still following Christ?” All else – evangelism, charity, loving rebuke of our fellow Christians – follow from this, and ranges from hollow to dangerous if we always assume the answer is “yes” without engaging in regular, humble reflection.
Paul asked Euodia and Syntyche, two feuding Philippian women, “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” His next words were “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Being of the same mind doesn’t mean being in perfect agreement. It becomes much easier to do when we each agree to focus on the one heart we can know, the one spirit we can convince to rejoice.
Comfort: The Lord is near.
Challenge: For a week or two, keep a diary documenting whether you spend your time thinking about the things Paul recommends, or about negative things. Meditate on what part your own thinking plays in your feelings of peace.
Prayer: Teach me, O Lord, to set my heart on what is good and right. Amen.
Discussion: What are some of your pet peeves, and what do they say about you?
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