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In the Face of Criticism

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Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
(Philippians 1:15-18 ESV)

While Paul was in prison there were apparently others living in freedom in Rome who were teaching others about Christ and how to have eternal life through Jesus’ death on the cross. We don’t know who these people were exactly. Perhaps they saw Paul’s confinement as an opportunity to promote themselves. Or perhaps they did not respect Paul for some reason. Whoever they were, they were preaching a true gospel with the wrong motives.

If Paul were like most people today he would have complained. He would have used social media to defend himself and expose these critics. But their behavior did not bother Paul. He was not concerned with his position or what people were saying about him. He only cared that people were hearing the truth and were being saved.

The Christian life is not a life of self-promotion among men. It is not a life of personal fulfillment or the pursuit of pleasure. These things lead to spiritual death. The Christian life is a life of constant surrender to Jesus by denying selfish desires and embracing the will of God. The only litmus test for our thoughts, actions, and attitudes should be “Does this bring glory to God?”.

Every time I read Paul’s writings I’m amazed at how unfocused he is on himself. He is in prison and facing death for simply teaching others about Jesus. This was not a crime in ancient Rome. But his message competed with the beliefs of the majority, including the Roman government. The Caesars were considered to be god in this culture. This new information Paul was preaching threatened the Roman establishment. It also threatened their economy as many people made money off the pantheon of gods in the Roman religious system.

But none of this mattered to Paul. He wasn’t afraid to shake up someone’s way of life because he knew that there was much more to life than what happens here on this earth. He knew that power, prestige, and money were not important in light of eternity. He wanted people to be saved from the penalty of their sins.

The current state of America isn’t all that different from ancient Rome. Our leaders have no regard for Jesus. People are overly concerned about enjoying this life at the expense of the next. A good chunk of our economy is centered around sin (the pornography industry’s annual revenue is more than twice those of MLB, the NFL, and the NBA combined).

Just like Rome, America needs Jesus. And just like Paul we need to stay focused on telling others about Christ. Let God handle the resistance and criticism we’ll face. People need to know Him more than we need to defend ourselves.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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