Fresh Air

Philippians 2:12-30

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.

Even if I am executed here and now, I'll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout's fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for me.

I plan (according to Jesus' plan) to send Timothy to you very soon so he can bring back all the news of you he can gather. Oh, how that will do my heart good! I have no one quite like Timothy. He is loyal, and genuinely concerned for you. Most people around here are looking out for themselves, with little concern for the things of Jesus. But you know yourselves that Timothy's the real thing. He's been a devoted son to me as together we've delivered the Message. As soon as I see how things are going to fall out for me here, I plan to send him off. And then I'm hoping and praying to be right on his heels.

But for right now, I'm dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion in my work. You sent him to help me out; now I'm sending him to help you out. He has been wanting in the worst way to get back with you. Especially since recovering from the illness you heard about, he's been wanting to get back and reassure you that he is just fine. He nearly died, as you know, but God had mercy on him. And not only on him—he had mercy on me, too. His death would have been one huge grief piled on top of all the others.

So you can see why I'm so delighted to send him on to you. When you see him again, hale and hearty, how you'll rejoice and how relieved I'll be. Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give. Remember the ministry to me that you started but weren't able to complete? Well, in the process of finishing up that work, he put his life on the line and nearly died doing it.

I love these kinds of passages in the Scriptures because they remind me that I am reading someone else’s mail. The last few paragraphs about Epaphroditus have my mind ablaze! Don’t you want to know the back story? Me too! I also want to know more of the back story of what was going on with Paul. These are the things that begin to drive us into the mysterious and wonderful depths of the Scriptures and history. If you are curious like me, start digging!

The thing that grabbed my attention this morning was this line, “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”

Oh! I so desperately want to be that fresh air, don’t you?

This morning I shared a quote from Fred Rogers that resonates with the same energy that this quote from St. Paul does:

The ones that see the “see the need and respond” these are the ones that are being breaths of fresh air in this “squalid and polluted society.”

As I ponder this idea from St. Paul I am struck by a couple of things. First, there was no question in his mind that the world was sick. He didn’t have a Pollyanna perspective of the world. No, Paul had a realistic view of society. There was no doubt that it was in need of healing.

Second, unlike many that would come after him his counsel was not to hold up in some sort of sanctuary but it was to go out. Paul called the followers of Christ to go forth as breaths of fresh air to show the world what the good life looks like. This life we know from earlier in Philippians 2 is one marked by self-forgetfulness and selflessness. Far from building Christian hideouts, Paul desired Christians to be people who were “out there” as living models of the sacrificial love of Christ.

Third, he challenged them to go “uncorrupted.” This was a calling to live life differently. The Christian is to live a life that is not corrupted by the greed and self-centeredness of their society. This demands discipline, awareness, and community. We need awareness to see where we need to grow. We need discipline to do the work necessary to towards being “uncorrupted.” And, we need community to help us practice awareness and discipline. To be a Christian is to live in the context of community not in isolation.

Let’s go be breaths of fresh air together today!