Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Stunning Power of Choosing to Rejoice

Philippians 4:1-4 (NASB 95)

1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentle spirit be know to all men. The Lord is near.

Sometimes, we become blind to the context of scriptural commands. Here's one that recently caught my eye.

Paul is finishing up his letter to the Philippians, a book that I preached through a number of years ago under the title, Refuse to Live Without Joy. We tend to think of verse 4 as Paul moving on to a different topic but verse 5 makes it clear that Paul has never left the topic of unity and harmony in the body, especially as it relates to two women having a difficult time getting along.

  1. Stand firm in the Lord. (1)
  2. Euodia and Syntyche, this means you too (2)
  3. Live in harmony in the Lord. (2)
  4. The rest of you, help them. (3)
  5. Rejoice. (4)
  6. Be gentle with all (5)
  7. Remember, the Lord is near (5)

For many of us, the point that seems out of place is verse 4. ("One of these is not like the others.") What does joy and rejoicing, and doing that at all times, have to do with standing firm, living in harmony, getting over grievances, helping struggling saints, being gentle and remembering that "the Lord is near"?

Answer: Everything.

There is a stunning power to reminding your soul what you have to rejoice in, at all times, and especially in the midst of disappointment and hurt. Euodia and Syntyche are two women from the first century whose disharmony was becoming something of an open scandal in the church of Phillipi. Paul goes to the extraordinary lengths of naming them publicly in a letter to the entire church. And at the heart of his admonition to them to get over whatever it is that divides them is the twice repeated command to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!"

Reminding our souls of what we share in the Lord is a powerful balm to all hurts, slights, misjudgments, injuries, sorrows and pains. There is a stunning power in making a choice to rejoice in what I share with the brother or sister who has hurt me rather than nursing the memory of how they hurt me.

"Lord Jesus, help me to obey You and to forget the hurts and embrace the joy of reconciliation. Help me to be a reconcilor. The love and harmony of Your people is more important than my being understood, agreed with, or vindicated. So help me Lord to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) Make me radically, overwhelmingly willing to forgive, like the You told us the Father is willing to forgive us in the parable of the prodigal. Make me a celebrator of reconciliation. O Lord, do this in my life for Your glory, my joy and the joy of the entire body. Amen."


Steve, Anne, Asher & StAn said...

This is a good word. Thank you for sharing it with us. I think that the LORD is trying to impress this truth into my heart. I just had a conversation with a brother earlier today on this very subject.

Your prayer is my prayer as well. May God have his way with me.

P.S. I am working hard to cultivate an environment of prayer and a heart for the lost. Thanks for the encouragement.

Llama Momma said...

So, are you saying that in order to be reconciled one must forget the hurts of the past?

At times, I think we need to remember the hurts in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

For example: my stepmother freaks out at me and my children because she doesn't like us. It's unprovoked. I do my best to be at peace with her in order to spend time with my dad, but my children are never alone with her. Do I forgive her? Yes. Do I trust her? Absolutely not.

ChosenRebel said...

Not exactly. Couple of points. One, remember the context. Paul is talking about two believers in Christ. (Is your stepmother a believer?) Second, protecting yourself from future needless hurt is not necessarily bad.

But we are talking about reconciliation between two for a past action, not protection against future pain. If we forgive a person, (which we are always enjoined to do when they repent of wrong and desire forgiveness), we forever give up the right to use the offense against us, against them.

How can you do that when the pain of the past offense is still very present? By learning to celebrate the moment of reconciliation.

Thought Project.
Study the parable of the Prodigal Son.
1, Spend a week understanding and meditating upon the position of the father in the story. How has he been shamed by the son? How has he been hurt by the son? Imagine yourself in the father's shoes in the community who knows what his son has done. Think of the slap in the face it was for the son to come to the father and say essentially, "Your only value to me is the money you can give me. I wish you were dead. I want my inheritance now."

2. Now spend a week thinking about how much you in the same circumstances would love to tell the son just how much he hurt you. How much would you want to drive the point home so that you could protect yourself from ever being hurt by him in the same way again.

3. Now spend a week thinking and analyzing what the father actually does do.

Question: Do you think the celebration of the sons return or the reminder of the pain he caused will be more productive?

Question: Is a follower of Christ to emulate the father or the second son?

Hope this helps.

Llama Momma said...

My stepmom says she's a believer.

The incident is in the past, though I'm always uneasy around her -- always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I haven't really forgiven her for the pain she's caused me. And she hasn't asked me to, or even admitted that what she did was wrong.

The situation is complicated.

I'll give these verses and questions some thought.

ChosenRebel said...

Professes to be. S0unds like you have some doubts.

Here's the difficulat task. When the person hasn't asked for forgiveness and shows no desire to have a reconciled relationship but contiunes, despite their words, to act in hostile ways toward us, what do you do then?

She hasn't asked for forgiveness, so how can I give it? She shows no desire to be reconciled so how can I ignore it? (Where did we ever get the idea that bearing our cross for Christ was going to be easy?)

A couple of thoughts:

1. You don't have to "forgive" her till she comes and asks. "I'm sorry. I know that I hurt you. It was wrong. I don't want to do it again. Please forgive me."

2. You do have to maintain a forgiving spirit, that is, "If she comes and asks for forgiveness, I will give it and will not use what she did as a club to beat her over the head in the future."

3. While you wait, and the wait may be long, continually ask God to make your heart like the father in the parable of the prodigal sons.