Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
(Philippians 1:27-28 NIV)
At the time Paul wrote this letter, he was unsure whether he would be able to come visit the Philippians again. Therefore, he includes some instructions for godly living in his letter to them.
The phrase “conduct yourselves in a manner” is just one word in the original Greek. It means to behave as a citizen. The town of Philippi was part of the Roman empire. It was the town to which Roman military veterans retired, so it had strong ties back to Rome. The people who lived there were proud to be Roman citizens.
But the believers who lived in Philippi were, more importantly, also citizens of the kingdom of God. Paul reminded them that their lives should reflect this heavenly citizenship. Just like the citizens of a country should behave in a way that does not do their country harm, so too should Christians live in such a way that promotes Jesus, our King.
This means that when we find ourselves in a situation that creates a conflict between how God wants us to behave and how the world expects us to behave, we need to side with God. When we have the opportunity to make money unethically we shouldn’t. When we have the opportunity to promote ourselves we shouldn’t. When we have the opportunity to put someone down we shouldn’t. Our lives should reflect Jesus to those around us at all times by displaying the same character traits Jesus did [Galatians 5:22-23].
The world is watching us. If we blend in too much with the world so that there is no distinction between us and them, then there will be no reason for anyone to think that a relationship with Christ provides any benefits.
But this does not mean that we need to be aloof. We do not have to go to extremes to be separated from our culture, such as the Amish do. But we do have to be discerning at all times so that we do not send the wrong message to those around us.
No matter what is happening in our lives, the actions of Christians should proclaim the gospel of Jesus. Otherwise no one will know we are Christians. And if people don’t know we are Christians then they won’t know Jesus. And if they don’t know Jesus then they will not go to heaven [Matthew 7:21-23].
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