“. . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12)
Everyone loves this verse, but what does it mean? How do we work out our salvation? All my life I’ve thought it was this sort of dynamic ongoing thing that happens between me and God. But then Ken pointed out in his sermon last week that the letter to the Philippians was written to a church. Working out salvation is done in the context of the church, not individuals.**
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to us on an individual level. But the idea is more corporate. And as I thought about it, it made sense. We need one another to develop the character we need as Christians. How are we going to develop humility without one another? Or patience, . . . agape love . . . mercy?
And that led me to an even more mind blowing revelation. Christian character is best developed through interactions with those who are more challenging to love. It’s easy to be patient with someone we have a natural affinity for. But there are people who are not as easy to practice the verse of “bearing with one another in love” on. Learning to do so is when we really grow.
Could that mean that God doesn’t intend for the church to be this homogenous place where everyone is a strong, passionate Christian? It takes those who are weak and struggling to teach us all how to love as God loves. And if we’re honest, we’re all weak and struggling at some time. Perhaps God intends for church to be a conglomeration of people who are at all kinds of places spiritually.
So then it makes sense that the next verse in Philippians is, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” We can’t complain about one another, even in our hearts! It is our job to show God’s love, patience and mercy through our relationships with one another in the church. We must, as Philippians goes on to say. “shine like stars” to the world.
** (This idea came from “To Live is Christ” by Tom and Sheila Jones.)