Today’s service was quite interesting for me. It was a familiar passage (Ephesians 6) I know I have heard at least ten times. Putting on the armor of God is not always easy. It takes practice and know-how. I think we often only look at this passage from an individualistic standpoint and not as a communal body responsibility. When we wear the armor together, as the body of Christ, we fight together through the power of the Holy Spirit. No man is left alone to fight. As I consider Paul’s words here in Philippians 1: 22-25, I get the same feeling that Paul sees his mission as our mission. This is what we are aiming to attain. As we read these next three verses, I want us to put ourselves in Paul’s position and attempt to get a sense of his rationale for us. With that, we will begin.
“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
Paul sees his work here on earth as fruitful labor. Even when he is in prison, he remains focus on the fruit that the Gospel produces.
Paul is visibly torn between being here on earth and being with Christ in glory.
He can’t wait to be with Christ – it’s better than living here on earth.
He finally agrees that he has a lot of work that God has called him to do.
You can’t blame Paul for being visibly conflicted between his work on earth and being with Christ in heaven. On the one hand, Paul has been used to do a lot of great things through the Holy Spirit and has seen a lot of fruit produced through hi efforts. On the other hand, Paul wants to be in the presence of God. He knows that there is no pain, hurt, sin, or hate in heaven. Things are literal perfect.
Paul comes to a conclusion though I think most of us would not come to. He puts his own individualistic desires aside for the work of Christ and to the Church. He sacrifices his desires for the body of Christ rather than enjoying his individualistic gratifications. There is something to be said about that. It is a beautiful picture of loving the body of Christ. The Church needs Paul to lead and establish leaders. He has the will-how and knowledge to do it. With a shaky start, the church might not survive if Paul left. Paul takes responsibility for those the Lord loves and asserts that he must stay in the flesh for now because he knows he is needed.
I think we can learn something about community from these three verses. Being in community with others means not thinking about yourself and your individualistic tendencies. Being in community means that we put our own thoughts aside and work hard to build up the body and protect the body. We never go at it solo. We have one another to rely on and to help us out when we need it. Perhaps that is one area we could work to attain in the local church. If we could learn to love the community more than ourselves, maybe we could end up changing the world for Christ – one group at a time. God bless.