2nd Sunday of Advent: Phil. 1:3-11
Paul’s letter to the Philippians has a similar tone to his letter to the Thessalonians. Particularly in his desire to see them pure and blameless in the day of Christ. Our 21st century ears hear a literal call to be perfect in this call to action, and yet that doesn’t sit well next to other scripture—even Paul’s other letters. I zero in on this phrase because misunderstanding this it can cause us to do the opposite of what will help us grow in our faith.
Neither Paul nor Peter were pure and blameless in their actions. None of the people of faith listed in Hebrews 11 were pure and blameless. Some even did atrocious things and yet still made the cut. So is the goal to try, try, try, to become perfect? No. As we see in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we don’t grow in our faith through our own efforts to be good. We cannot be perfect.
A Work of God
In verse six of this text, Paul alludes to his intent. He tells them, “the one who began a good work among you” will bring that work to completion. Our spiritual growth doesn’t happen through gritting our teeth and trying really hard. Our transformative growth is a work of God within our hearts. There’s a level of cooperation in which we participate, but as I wrote in Faithfulness, if we make “right living” our primary focus we lose site of what really matters—our relationship with God and each other.
Paul clearly hasn’t lost sight of his relationship with the Philippians. They also embrace their relationship with Paul. Prior to this letter the church in Philippi collected money to support Paul while he was in prison. Nobody in this story is wallowing in guilt or shame, which is why I believe this church understood what Paul meant with his encouragement to be found blameless. It’s an encouragement to continue in the faith and, as they do, they will continue to grow in wisdom and maturity.
As you focus on developing healthy relationships with God and your community, may love and wisdom increase! How is God already working in your life? Who are the people growing alongside you?