Summary: Paul teaches us how to endure opposition
Philippians 1:27-30 April 13, 2008
Living With Opposition
When Paul first visited Philippi, he and Silas were arrested and beaten for setting a young girl free from a demon and for preaching the Good News of Jesus. Although they were released, for a traveling missionary, Paul saw the inside of a jail cell more than he saw the outside! He writes this very letter from prison.
With this paragraph, we see that he is not the only one who is experiencing persecution or opposition. The Christian community in Philippi is experiencing their own persecution or opposition. It is difficult to know whether the opposition is coming from the people of other faiths around them, or whether it is coming from the Jewish people, or if it is coming from people who call themselves Christians but believe other than the Biblical Gospel. It may be all of the above.
Wherever the opposition is coming from, Paul is telling the Christians how to live in light of the opposition.
In our world today, we often times forget that there is real persecution going on. All over the world, Christians are being discriminated against, beaten, jailed, tortured, and even killed for their faith. Persecution.net
Here in our own country, we are not likely to face physical persecution from the Government or even from non-governmental forces. But we do face opposition.
Two of the most popular non-fiction books in the past few years were The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. Both these books do not just put forward arguments for atheism, but the attack faith and belief with great vitriol. MacLean’s Magazine published an article at Easter titled: “The Jesus problem: The newest view of Christ - activist, politician, not very Christian - is hard to square with the Bible’s. Now some believers even say the faith might be better off without him.”
That is in the popular media, but some of you may feel like you are under attack, or living with opposition in your place of work, or school, or even in your home.
Thant may be you experience, or you might find that people around you are neith opposed to your faith nor in agreement with it.
If Jesus Christ were to come today people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he has to say, and make fun of it. ~Thomas Carlyle
Often times, we are in greater danger of ridicule than assault.
So while our physical beings may not be at risk, I think that what Paul says to the Philippians can and will apply to Torontonians in 2008
As Citizens of Heaven…
The kingdom of heaven = the kingdom of God = the rule or reign of God
Knowing to whom we belong can give us a great confidence in the midst of opposition. Being a citizen of Heaven is very political language – It reminds us that we are in the midst of regime change – not just who is in charge of our individual lives, but there is a change going on in regards to who is in charge of the whole world. The amazing thing is that we know that regime change will happen. We are like the French resistance after D-day – the tide has turned, the outcome of the war is decided, and we are on the side of the winners, but we are still living under the rule of old regime.
This should not lead to arrogance, (arrogance does not belong in the new regime - the kingdom of heaven) but humble confidence that the outcome is assured.
Our first citizenship is in heaven – “we must serve God before men” – not an excuse to buck the system out of rebellion, but it is a reminder of who our first “boss” is.
In Acts 5, the apostles have been teaching about Jesus’ death and resurrection in Jerusalem and angering the authorities. They have them arrested and thrown in jail, but an angel lets them out and tells them to go back to the Temple and tell people about Jesus. The authorities collect them again and bring them before the religious courts and accuse them of not obeying their commands. Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than human beings!”
This is not an excuse to buck the system just because we don’t like authority. The same Peter that says, "We must obey God rather than human beings!” writes in his letter to the church: “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. …Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: … Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:11-17