Philippians 3:7 (NASB) But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
When Paul says this, he has just gone through a whole list of things that made him successful in his context of first century Judaism. He is discussing the futility of trying to obtain righteousness from the law and contrasting it with the surpassing greatness of the righteousness available through Christ, but Paul had given up a whole lot more than a particular point of theology.
Paul’s radical conversion and equally radical obedience, meant that he gave up a reputation, a social circle, a lifestyle, and probably a good deal of wealth and material possessions—all of which his identity would likely have been very much wrapped up in. Not only did he give those up, but he then became associated with people and lifestyles that were despised by his former peers.
He did have a dramatic life-changing experience with Christ, but I doubt if he never felt the sting of his newfound humility.
Reading in Philippians 2 & 3 has raised a series of questions for me.
What are the things I identify with that would be difficult for me to relinquish for the sake of Christ? What items, activities, associations, or opinions are wrapped up in how I see myself and how I want others to see me?
It is easy for me to make sweeping claims that I would be willing to give it all up, even to the point of death, for the sake of Christ. But what if I’m never called on to “give it all up”. Are there real and immediate things I could/should be giving up for the sake of knowing Christ and obeying Him fully? Are there things that my heart secretly says, “NO. I’m not ready to let that go.”?
I’m sure the list is longer but I definitely found some areas where my heart wanted to brace itself in stubborn resistance.
1) Associations: All of us know people at work, in school, or in our church or extended family who are embarrassing, uncomfortable, awkward, or even just annoying for one reason or another. I am willing enough to ‘reach out’ to these people as long as it is clear to others that that is what I am doing. To my shame, I notice that in certain situations, I fear my image will be tarnished by too close of an association with such a one. I am tempted to distance myself from a precious and probably hurting child of God for the sake of the opinions and company of those whose association flatters me. I must be willing to part with my pride and my image if I want to obey Jesus.
2) Stuff: I believe it is right to live simple so that I can have more time and resources to give to Christ, but when I think about it, I care quite a bit that my home, wardrobe, and possessions don’t seem too poor and backward. I am not as immune to the bigger, better, more syndrome as I’d like to think.
3) Appearances: I want to be seen as successful and intelligent. What if God is calling me to do something that would appear unsuccessful in the eyes of my peers? What if the things I choose to give my attention to in order to be obedient mean that I have to neglect things that are wise and important in the eyes of others?
4) Comfort: This one is a little silly, but I was thinking the other day that it would matter to me a little too much if I thought we were being called to a mission field where it was highly impractical to maintain the kind of hygiene we’re used to here. I’m sure I’d go, but what does it say about my heart that I am capable of being more grieved at the idea of having hairy legs than I am at the knowledge that so many in the world are unreached with the gospel?
This is not at all supposed to be an exhaustive list—It is just to prime the pump. What about you? Are there things important to your identity or comfort that maybe you hadn’t considered in the vague ‘give it all up’ clause? Might be good for me to consider those things too.
Philippians 2:5-7 (NASB)
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.