We live in a world where the menace of terrorism and the rhetoric of war by totalitarian regimes are a frequent occurrence and are serious threats. In recent months our government has called on our people to be vigilant and united in facing the threat of terrorist attacks.
In some ways like us today, the Philippian Christians were also facing threats and dangers from their immediate surroundings. Besides the imperial Roman Empire, they had an invisible and more powerful enemy – Satan who is the god of this world and prince of the power of the air - waging a spiritual “guerrilla” warfare against the Church at Philippi.
Hence while in prison, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to instruct and encourage them to fight the good fight of faith. In Phil. 1:27 - 30, he called them to unite together against the enemy from without. He reminded them of who they are – ‘citizens of the heavenly Kingdom’. And as such they are to live life according to their status. Because they are fellow citizens of heaven, they should stand united in heart and purpose for the gospel’s sake. Paul knew the tactics of the enemies. They would intimidate and frighten them to submit or to flee in fear.
However, the Philippians could take courage that God had promised them final victory! In fact, He will vindicate them either in this age, or in the age to come. Paul reminded them, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). The word, “conversation” in the original means “citizenship.”
Our suffering is both a privilege and calling. We as believers should consider our suffering for Christ, in whatever form they take, as a privilege and honor. We are not to court ‘martyrdom’ for martyrdom’s sake. But at the same time, when we are called upon to suffer for Christ, we should count it as our privilege and calling because we are soldiers of the Cross.
While we thank God for a good government and a peaceful and prosperous society, we must at the same time be vigilant and diligent to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” in our church (Eph. 4:2). We should not wait for some devastating “crises” to hit us before we take positive steps to maintain peace and unity for the gospel’s sake and to the glory of God.
Let us follow the famous maxim: “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Rev. Mark Tay