Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Philippians 3: 1

 

There is an almost strange dissonance to this verse. Paul has been urging the followers of Christ in Philippi to stand firm in unity and in righteous adherence to the true faith of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now he makes this final statement that is nowhere near to the end of the letter, itself. I think that the finality that was on Paul’s mind was enfolded into the idea that all of a life of being a disciple of the Lord is summed up in the joy that Christ grants to us. This is a joy that has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in our lives or with what is happening to us. It comes from the depths of Christ’s love for each of us, and it is infinite and unstoppable.

 

Yet, the direction that Paul has given to the church, both in writing and in personal teaching, is hard, direct, and confrontational in the world. He has laid out God’s very narrow path of righteous living for them, and God has left little room for compromise or for conformity to the morality of the culture. The people in the church at Philippi and all of us in the church today are tasked with staying unified around these fundamental tenants of faith as we proclaim the one true God and the only path to salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. This is not an easy calling to faithfully answer.

 

This path of unity within the body of Christ has not been easy to follow at any time in the history of the church, and it is probably even more precarious today. Our world and its culture are a challenging place to dwell. What it means to follow Christ is being regularly and continually redefined. Even more troubling is the reality that the church of Jesus Christ is often viewed by others as utterly irrelevant and as a useless impediment to progress. This is the environment in which we encounter God’s calling to rejoice in Him. However, it is, in fact, our joy in our relationship with Christ that allows us to live in the safety of our present and eternal hope while engaging with a fallen and needy culture, and it is our common joy in Christ that can unify His church.