Philippians 2 – Somewhere Between Making Excuses and Masochism

Philippians 2 Bible with Equal Exchange Dark Mint Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate: Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch (67% Cacao)

Today’s PassagePhilippians 2

The first eight verses of Philippians 2 loom large in my high school memories. I loved the passage, memorizing the third and fourth verses, committing to its ethic of unselfishness–or at least advocating for it. I knew my attempts to live up to Jesus Christ’s standard of sacrificial giving would inevitably fall short, but I made his example my goal anyway. Eighteen years of adult experience have opened my eyes to how hard it can be to give yourself to others, and part of me wants to remark on my high-school self’s idealistic naiveté. But I gotta give the kid credit: at least he tried. I’ve had periods in my adult life, like years, where I did as much living for self as I could hide.

Giving is hard, and it often hurts. When he wrote his original letters, Paul didn’t divide them into chapters, and he’s developing a point he already introduced: “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (1:29). As human beings, we don’t get out of this life thing without experiencing pain, but Paul’s talking about going beyond the suffering common to all humanity. He’s talking about suffering as Christ did, for the benefit of others, to honor our savior himself. He’s talking about suffering for the gospel. Paul presents Jesus Christ as our example in this matter, and bizarrely, he views it as something given to us, like a gift.

We’re not called to 24/7 agony or embracing every opportunity to experience pain. But that’s not to minimize the weight of our calling. For starters, Paul urges us to reject anything motivated by selfishness and empty conceit (2:3). Motivations matter: and if you can’t do it without doing it for your own self-aggrandizement, don’t do it.

But the next verse really got its hooks into me today. Paul instructs: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:4). See that word “merely?” That’s not present in the Greek, it’s supplied by the translators. Paul literally says, “Don’t look to your own stuff.” But the “also” is there in the original Greek. And I wonder: how far is far enough? Is there even such a thing as “too far?” Some have been called to give their lives for the faith, but how do I know God hasn’t called us all to a suicidal level of commitment, as Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to fulfill God’s will? I suspect I’ll be grappling with these questions my entire life, caught in the tension between making excuses and masochism.

But there’s one thing I’m sure of. In his post for today, “Molasses In January,” BJ of The River Walk mentions Paul’s words from Philippians 2:17: “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” BJ notes the difference between a liquid getting spilled out accidentally and being poured out on purpose as an offering. When I do choose to suffer, I don’t want to suffer for no reason, or for some short-sighted selfish reason like getting lots of money or making myself look good. I want to suffer in order to join in Jesus Christ’s continuing work in the world. I want to suffer redemptively.

Theo Orange Madecasse Dark Green and Blacks and Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate Assortment

At the risk of giving this post tone whiplash, I’d like to drop a shout-out to my mom for today’s chocolate. She was back in town this past week, and in her generosity, she saw fit to hit the blog with a massive donation of chocolate. Check out those bars, fam! You can expect to see this delicious variety in the weeks ahead. Mom, thanks for your support.

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