In his final remarks to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul said this:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Phil 4:8
Perhaps more than any other passage in scripture, this verse has meant more to me personally in guiding my thought life. It tells me what the overall ‘character’ of my thought life should be, regardless of the situation I am in, as well as how I should ‘direct’ my thought life when my fleshly mind wants to do otherwise.
I’ve found it quite easy at times to dwell on perceived and actual wrongs that have come our way to the extent that I’ve become personally discouraged and bitter; become angry toward the ‘perpetrator’ and asked God to let me be the instrument of His vengeance.
The above passage tells me to think about, focus on good things. This does not mean that I should just let wrongs go and not seek ‘justice’ for those wronged. There is a system of Biblical church discipline for such matters as well as a civil court system, both ordained of God for the purpose of ‘righting wrongs’.
I believe there is great danger, both personally and for the body of Christ, when we begin to focus on the wrong and not on what good for the Glory of God can be accomplished in hard situations. As believers, we are to be about the building up of the body of Christ. We have given gifts just for that purpose – to build up the body of Christ.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” – Ephesians 4:11-12
We are instructed concerning ‘gifts of the Spirit’ in 1 Corinthians 12; that they are for the ‘common good’ :
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Whatever we think about offices in the church and spiritual gifts, Paul makes it very clear in both passages that they are given and empowered by the Holy Spirit to equally important members of the church who occupy different offices and perform different functions in the body, a;working together to build up the body.
What has this t do with our thought lives? I’m so glad you asked!
I’ve never become bitter about a wrong done (to myself or others) without my thinking being the first step toward wanting to be an instrument of God’s vengeance upon persons guilty of wrong. All I have to do is focus on the evil wrongdoing and the want to have that wrong righted. And I must say that it’s not too difficult to find passages of scripture to support my desire, although I need to take them out of the context of God’s redemptive plan and/or read into them (eisegete) God’s permission for my sinful emotions and even a ‘holy crusade’ for justice.
On the other hand, while there might have been great wrong done, if I focus, as Paul teaches us, on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, and whatever is worthy of praise I can avoid falling off of a path leading to restoration and redemption, which is God’s ideal; and leave the ‘justice’ element to appropriately applied church discipline and whatever God ordained civil court system is in place, and ultimately to God himself.
In short, regarding the church, the very Bride of Christ, I can either be a ‘body builder’ or a ‘wrecking ball’. Which one am I? When there are wrongs done or ‘sin in the camp’, how do I respond? I could ignore it and keep my head stuck in the sand, pretending it isn’t happening. I could decide to hunt down the criminals, expose them to the world as both judge and jury, or I could pray that God take care of the justice and be an agent or reconciliation and redemption.
The question is, am I a ‘body builder’ or ‘wrecking ball’? Dear Christian, which one are you?
Food for thought early on a Sunday morning.