7 October 2014Philippians 3:1-11
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.” (v. 7)
The call to discipleship offered by Jesus is an invitation to live in a way which is often counter-cultural. Paul challenges the followers of Jesus not only to have a different value system in terms of status, but also to seek to share in Christ's sufferings. But what does this mean?
Regarding status, it is clear that Paul believes that, in terms of the values by which he lived the earlier part of his life, he had much of which he could boast. He came from the right family background (verse 5) and he followed the right religious practices (verse 6). However, his experience on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-9), had turned his value system upside down so that what Paul previously saw as gain, he now considers as loss (verse 7).
This is clearly something that Paul feels deeply about, because he repeats and expands this statement in the following verse (verse 8) and claims that what he previously saw to be of great value, he now considers to be "rubbish". In making that statement, Paul has provided a problem for translators of the Bible. English versions often use a mild term such as "rubbish" (NRSV and NIV) or "refuse" (GNB), but the force of Paul's original word is stronger, if somewhat less polite. One commentator explains the meaning of the word as "dung, muck - both as excrement and food gone bad", which perhaps more forcibly conveys the change which Paul feels has taken place in his life.
In terms of Christ's sufferings, Paul speaks of wanting to know Christ and "the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming more like him in his death" (v. 10). This is not a desire for martyrdom, but is an expression of what it means to become a cross-carrying disciple within the kingdom of God. Interestingly, Paul, in this significant verse, makes reference to the power of Christ's resurrection before he mentions Christ's death. It is through the power of Easter Day that we are enabled to face our own Good Fridays.
- How can we engage with the society in which we live while at the same time questioning (at least some of) its values?
- Reflect on the powerful language of verse 10 in which Paul speaks of knowing the power of Christ's resurrection and of sharing in Christ's sufferings. What does this mean for you today?
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