In the 3rd Chapter of Philippians Paul tells the Philippians to Join together in following his example. And not only his but to keep our eyes on those who live as he does. This is a bit troubling. First of all because you never hear people in the church talk like this. The only example they ever use is Jesus. But on multiple occasions Paul tells people to imitate or follow his example. Why? Second, we are quick to say we are flawed, even if we don’t believe it, and discount our own witness; even though in Isaiah (43:10-12) G-d says it is our only purpose. So once again I have to ask, why? Why don’t we encourage others to follow our example? Why don’t we challenge others to live as we live?
Imagine what Paul is saying as he tells the churches of this fledgling sect of Judaism to follow his example. When most of us tell our children to, “do as I say, not as I do,” he is telling the whole community to do as he does. Think about the stage he is putting himself on and understand what would happen in these communities if he were to live less than what he was called to. What Chutzpah! In all honesty I can’t say I would want people to follow my example, especially in everything I do, but I want to live a life worthy of emulating. So how do I accomplish that?
I think that one of the reasons we don’t challenge others to live as we do is because we don’t want to live righteously. It’s too hard. It is so much easier to allow ourselves certain things in our lives that keep us from fully committing to a life devoted to G-d. G-d is great and all that, but am I so committed to it as truth that I am willing to give up everything else to pursue it? Interestingly enough in Philippians 3 Paul also answers that question saying he considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, and that all things are garbage in comparison. So why don’t we believe it?
I think this could be a clear indicator of just whether or not we do believe, it is also possible that so many who have come before us have watered the truth down until what we follow is unrecognizable as the Gospel we so dearly proclaim. If it is the latter and not the former, are we responsible for not checking the work of those words we so easily accept as fact? I would say we are. We have a responsibility to scrutinize the claims that are fed to us. As Paul again says, test everything and hold on to what is good. So why don’t we? Again, I think it’s because it’s easier not to.
It is so much easier to just take what is given to us, especially if it is already in line with what we believe, than it is to challenge ourselves to read, think, and test what makes our lives easier. We like to put the pressure on Jesus as the one people should look to, the problem is most of the world is looking to us to see what he was like. Just as in ancient times where the priests were the hands and feet of the god, so we too are the representatives of His justice, His mercy, His love. Do they reflect that which we find in the Text?
Another verse in Philippians strikes me, the one where he says many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. I take this to mean not just people, but people within the church. I always assumed that people knew that they were enemies and they intentionally tried to lead people astray. But if you couple this with the verse in Matthew that says many will say to me on that day L-rd did we not Prophecy in your name? but I will say I never knew you. It appears that these are people who are faithfully following something, something they believe to be right, but isn’t. This is a troubling thought. What if I am one of those? I want to pause right here to make something clear, this is why if you are trusting in anything but Jesus for salvation you run this risk. The Grace of G-d through Jesus Christ is the only thing that can cover all that we don’t know.
One thing remains, what about our example? Does my witness matter? I believe it does> not because G-d is incapable, but because he decided to involve us in his plan. So now we must ask ourselves, will we do our part? Will we become the examples that are worthy to be followed? How do we do that without our own examples? How did the Israelites do it after they left 400 years of slavery with little understanding of what it meant to be G-ds people? We are G-ds people and what’s more we are a kingdom of priest and a holy nation. Maybe its time we acted like it.