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

 

Here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of another. This is a time that often triggers reflection and goal setting in light of what is learned through that reflective thinking. This past year has been hard in many respects. There has been warfare taking place all over the globe to such an extent that, regardless of where we live, it is hard to feel safe from its violence. People are engaged in struggles to simply survive while many of us are feeling threatened by their desire to move away from oppression and death and into our neighborhoods. True justice has become very hard to define, dangerous to defend, and seems to be a futile dream in our world.

 

This is the sort of time that Paul’s “finally” is all about. He is not so much drawing a series of thoughts to a close as he is reaching the place of summation. He is stating a final argument for the manner in which followers of Christ are distinctly set apart from the rest of our world and from our cultures. We know something that does not require us to escape from reality to achieve and that does hold up regardless of what is happening in our world or in our own life. In and through all that comes our way we can trust in the presence of Christ with us. This presence of the one who is the unshakable lover of my soul and the caretaker of my life brings about a form of deep-seated joy that fills all of the dark caverns that doubt and fear attempt to create within my heart and mind.

 

This fullness of joy that Christ causes is my companion through all of life. It walks with me in bold defiance of the reticence to love and to care for others that society preaches. It supports and comforts my wounded heart when I am overtaken by grief and loss, and it empowers me to express the depth and the nature of my relationship with Christ to everyone that I encounter in any and all context within the scope of my day’s journey. In fact, this joy that Christ brings about in me demands expression, and this expression is the rejoicing that Paul describes. It is the natural result of living a life that has been surrendered to Christ, and its reality in me is one of the ways that my Lord speaks to others about their need for the Savior. So, let’s ring in this new year with thoughts, words, and actions of joyous praise to our Lord!

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.