When doing weekday Matins, I include the daily prescribed scripture readings. Today’s readings are Philippians 1:27-2:4 and Luke 10:1-15. I was reading from the Revised English Bible (REB), and their translations of a few lines really stood out in my mind.
“Whatever happens, let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (Philippians 1:27).
As the economic crisis becomes increasingly worrisome, and as the presidential campaign grinds on and causes increasing stress and distress, especially in those who fear their candidate will not win, we should keep St. Paul’s words in mind: whatever happens, let us conduct ourselves as Christians – filled with faith, hope, love, joy, humility, peace, wisdom, mercy, and truth. The economy and the president cannot make you give up your faith in and love for God – only you can make yourself gift it up. It is far more constructive to pray than to fret.
“…for you have been granted the privilege not only of believing in Christ but also suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29)
It is disquieting and discomforting to believers to remember that Christ warned we may have to suffer for Him. We like the privilege of believing in Him, but do we believe so strongly as to be willing to suffer for Him AND to see the suffering as a privilege rather than something to be avoided? This is not the American prosperity gospel, but it is the Gospel of Christ.
“After this the Lord appointed a further seventy-two and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place he himself intended to visit.” (Luke 10:1)
This is another challenging verse for those of us who want to follow Christ – He sends his chosen disciples AHEAD of Him! (see my blog: Christ: The Rock Who Follows Us) Following Jesus does not always mean walking behind Him; sometimes following Christ means following His direction and commands and it means going ahead of Him! As disciples we are at times to be evangelist/heralds announcing the Christ, or preparing the way for people to be receptive to the Gospel. At other times we follow Christ into places and show people how to live the Gospel which Christ proclaims and incarnates. Following Christ thus sometimes means to go ahead of Him into a place that He has not yet gone but plans to visit. This is apostolic ministry, the work of His disciples, evangelism. It is part of the work of bringing Orthodoxy to America.
“When you go into a house, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house.’ If there is a man of peace there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5-6)
This is Christ’s instructions to those He is sending ahead of Himself – to those places he intends to visit for the first time. Our first words as disciples-become-apostles is “Peace!” As heralds of the Kingdom, our first words to those who do not yet know Christ is to wish them “Peace”, not to condemn them, chastise them, criticize them, argue with them or judge them. We are to bless them as our first duty. So before going in to talk to unbelievers or the non-Orthodox “loaded for bear”, the first thing on our mind should be wishing them peace, not what arguments we are going to use to try to change their minds. The wish for peace should be foremost on our minds, not the wish to convert. We are after all bringing them the Gospel of peace not the bad news of enmity, dividing walls and spiritual apartheid.
“A man of peace” – a wonderful image. A man of peace will recognize our blessing and accept us. And we are to stay with such a man of peace because there we too as visitors and heralds experience the Kingdom of God from our hosts!