Our world is rife with blaming and villainizing when things go wrong. Someone must “pay” is often the chorus repeated to oblivion to whatever difficulty rises to the surface. We have the uncanny desire as humans to seek revenge thinking that will better the world if everyone pays for their misspoken word and dastardly deeds. Chained to a prison guard 24/7 Paul was keenly aware of this philosophy. It was especially so given many outside were trivializing Paul’s work and preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus with the intent of self-gratification and the intense desire to make a name for themselves, which when you think about it isn’t any different today. It is here these words bleed off the pages of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
(12-14) Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Then the clencher:
(15-18) It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes and I will continue to rejoice.
Circle back to Philippians 1:9 for a minute and consider the brilliance of what Paul is saying. Before he tackles the subject of the two kinds of preachers in this world; those who do it for personal gain, and those whose hearts are passionate about proclaiming the love of Christ, he affirms a profound prayer for the Philippians:
(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
Paul prays very intently for them to have discernment and understanding of what is best, pure and blameless. His desire was for the church to focus on their purpose which was to be fixed on God and God alone. Pay no attention to the grumblings, stirrings, and arguments, or get stirred up in the blame games as those are a distraction to our purpose as believers in Christ Jesus. Those with a discerning heart and mind will live their testimony in purity and blamelessness, regardless of what others think. Whatever happens, our role is to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, to have discernment as we speak about Christ and Christ alone. This is essential in the life of a believer and the community known as the church. When suffering comes, and it will, we are able to discern in the midst of it our role so that others can be encouraged and grow confident as well.