"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Phillipians 1:27)
I read this passage as I'm reflecting back on an extrordinary weeklong conference: Catholics, rabbis, union presidents, community organizers, Unitarians, Buddhists, attorneys, Lutherans, addictions counsellors, and lawmakers, all together for one week, to work out together how to change the world for the common good.
A heady experience, to say the least. I came away knowing I have 14 new friends, 14 people with whom I share a level of respect and admiration that I didn't know was possible.
And how did I conduct myself? Because I felt honoured to be there, and marvelled at the kindness and recognition of the people who thought me worth sending, my heart was prepared to learn all I could, and to extend the same grace, respect and expectation of worth to those around me.
When we understand the depth of mercy and love that the gospel is to us, we can conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of it - to be loved that fiercely, worthy of such incredible sacrifice is hard to absorb - but it sets a standard for how we are to move forward from the point of our own conversion, and into the practice of loving and valuing others, because the gospel is unequivocal: for God so loved the world...
Is this starting to sound lofty and unattainable? (Perhaps you are reading this as you face a dreaded day among co-workers you mistrust, customers who weary you, children who test your patience...)
Let's take it down the ground, then - to the earthy roots of living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ:
"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose..." (Phil 2:12-13)
We are to always start, every day, from a place of humility - working out, wrestling with our salvation, knowing it is God who works in us. I couldn't love and respect those 14 people on my own. I couldn't spend seven days with people from such diverse backgrounds, poliitics and beliefs without an understanding of the utter extravagance of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to work out of my heart, through my intellect, and into my behaviour. Every conversation was a beginning, a recognition that Christ loves them just as much as He loves me, and he is as interested in their lives, their healing and their calling as he is in mine.
Conducting yourself in such a manner requires strength and discipline, to be sure - to quell that beast of self-interest for the sake of the gospel, is to give every person you come into contact with - from barista to boss to spouse to those who have hurt you - the gift of recognition - they are human beings, not tools to be used, competitors to beat, or obstacles to be overcome. They are why Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose again.
It also requires a true connection with the One who is the gospel. It requires a thirst for forgiveness, a willingness to reflect on your own shortcomings, and a heart hungry for a deeper, wider, fuller and ongoing understanding of who Jesus is, and what he has done and is doing for you.
Take some time today to let the gospel overwhelm you once again - ask the Lord to show you how He is working in you, what He has done for you, and how you can, in turn, let the gospel work its revolutionary way into your daily interactions with others - from suspicion to service, from fear to friendship, from hierarchy to humility.
- Sarah Kift