Quit Whining and Shine Instead

We don’t have to be geniuses to figure out that the influence of Christianity is on the decline in North America. The reasons for this are as arguable as they are many. But if only we had some better evangelistic programs… And if only we had a stronger ministry outreach among the community… Then we might just…

But might the problem just be you?

And me?

And other Christians?

For Us Who Wish to Argue

Before you reactively dismiss my accusatory question, consider these words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:14-15:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…

The instruction here is offered to a church where at least two sisters in Christ are in conflict with each other (cf. 4:2). And if the Philippians are like most churches, other Christians were likely already taking sides and lining themselves up against each other. Trust me, I’ve been a part of church long enough to know how that works. So the entire church then and now is put on notice

So what is Paul saying? Earlier in chapter two Paul recalled an early Christian hymn which told the story of the humility and self-sacrificial obedience which Christ lived with even to the point of death. Paul recalls this because it is the mindset that we must live with as Christians. So for Christians, “grumbling or arguing” is rooted in selfishness and is antithetical with the life of Christ we are to embody. But there’s more. When we learn to stop such grumbling and arguing, we not only become “pure and blameless” among a sinful world but we also “shine… like stars in the sky” among the world.

There’s another interesting point to make about these instructions, taking notice of what Paul doesn’t say. Paul doesn’t mention a word about better evangelistic programs or stronger outreach ministries not because he’s against either but because they don’t matter much at all if the church is full of grumbling and arguing, failing to live from the mindset of Christ.

Better Posture Please

So here is why I suggested earlier that the problem is us. Whether it’s Christians vs. Christians or Christians vs. The World, we – Christians, in general – grumble about everything we don’t like or disagree with and argue in protest. Just turn on your Facebook or Twitter feed and you’ll see what I mean. For example, take the recent film Noah or the decision of World Vision to employ couples in same-sex marriages (and the subsequent reversal of that decision). Or go back to when Rob Bell published his controversial book Love Wins or every time a state attempts to pass legislation that redefines the traditional view of marriage. The typical reaction from many Christians is a barrage of grumbling and arguing. Those Christians who disagree voice their protest and then those Christians who disagree with the protest bite the bait and respond with an equal amount of protest.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time for speaking up but not every time is that time. It takes wisdom to know the difference and our propensity towards a reactive posture shows a lack of wisdom in this regard. More often, our grumbling and arguing is about us… we’re offended and so we complain or our way, whatever way that is, is disregarded to some extent and so we complain. And our emotive reflux blinds us from seeing what everyone else sees, just how self-serving such grumbling and arguing really is.

If we want to influence the culture at large, which is part of what evangelism and ministry aims at, it begins with us learning how to posture ourselves among the world at large. This posture takes us back to the mindset of Christ. Our gospel witness is spot on when the way we live among the world reflects the humble and self-sacrificial obedient life of Christ. This begins by ceasing to whine and complain every time someone says or does something we dislike or even disagree with. Let’s let our example lead, speaking only from the posture of Christ among the world at large and see what happens as a result. We might just be surprised how bright stars can become!

4 responses to “Quit Whining and Shine Instead

  1. The complaints have demonstrated to all people that things happen when the right people complain. Part of the grumbling is that we have all witnessed those at the top of the pecking order successfully complain and get whatever it was that they wanted. This tends to happen like clockwork. Meanwhile, if the bottom complain, there will be a sermon on grumbling/murmuring and how sinful it is. Thus, you need someone at the top of the pecking order to complain on your behalf.

  2. Philippians 2:12    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
    Philippians 2:14    Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

    The reason for Paul’s writing to the Philippians is to encourage them to continue his ministry. This theme can be found from chapter one through the entire letter. The key to understanding Philippians 2 14-15 is verse 16, “as you hold out the word of life”. In order for the Philippians to “shine as stars” in their ministry of “holding out the word of life” they must continue to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling… and become blameless and pure… in their depraved generation.” They will then be able to, “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” (1:27) So the focus is on the proclamation of the word of life and the gospel.

    I got the feeling the author thinks “shining like the stars” has to do with not complaining, grumbling, arguing or hurting people’s feelings, but that is not Paul’s focus. The “shining” is directly related to the “holding out of the word of life”. The word is what shines. The gospel is the light.

    2Peter 1:19    And we have the WORD of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a LIGHT SHINING in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

    1John 2:8 Yet I am writing you a NEW COMMAND; its TRUTH is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the TRUE LIGHT is already SHINING.

    2Corinthians 4:1    Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the WORD of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the TRUTH plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our GOSPEL is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the LIGHT of the GOSPEL of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not PREACH ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let LIGHT SHINE out of darkness,” made his LIGHT shine in our hearts to give us the LIGHT of the KNOWLEDGE of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    It is the preaching of the truth, the gospel, the holding out of the word that will “influence the culture at large”. Not complaining, grumbling or arguing certainly will help the church focus on it’s task but it is more of a side issue. The main issue is relentless preaching of the truth whether it be in the local congregation, in our homes, workplace and schools or on Facebook or Twitter.

    • David,

      The church certainly needs to preach the truth but the point that I’m trying to make is that all preaching done in the spoken word must first flow from and be consistent with preaching that is done in the way the church lives. No matter how much the church preaches with the spoken word, the church cannot “hold firmly to the word of life” if it is not living from the mindset of Christ among each other and before the world. So in short, the church must become the sermon before it can speak the sermon and as it does so, it holds to the word. I hope that clarifies my position a little better.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  3. Great Post Rex!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s