His Ways Are Not My Ways!
This is the third week of our new series: Who Do You Think I Am? What makes you you is another way to put it. And how you answer this question determines a lot in your life: your actions, relationships and values. All of this is incomplete and is not the fullness of who you are. Ultimately you and I need to look to God to see our identity. He is the one who knows us best; he designed us and created us for a purpose. Last week we saw that a key part of my Christian identity ought to be forgiveness. Not done by my efforts but through the help that God gives me.
This week the second reading of Paul’s letter to the Philippians can help us to better answer this question. The city of Philippi remains today and was once a prosperous Roman metropolis. Paul started the community or church there, is very fond of them for their support of him and his letter is very personal. Most probably he wrote it from Rome when he was in prison or house arrest. Imagine how unsure he must have been about what would happen to him.
He says that he hopes that the prayers of the Philippians (1: 20-24) will bring about his deliverance. And he hopes that he has sufficient courage to magnify Christ in his body, either by life or death. In other words he is saying don’t worry: if I live or if I die Christ will be magnified in me. Then he says something super profound: “For me life is Christ and death is gain.” What would you say if you are being totally honest: for me life is football and death is a losing season?
This statement is very similar to what he said earlier: Christ will be magnified in my body whether I live or I die. You and I cannot make Christ bigger, how could we? But you can make him present in the world by your faith-filled actions, your ability to not hold grudges, etc. How you react shows or does not show that Christ is in you.
Paul’s identity is that he is a disciple. That is why he is in jail and that he could die for this, and did die. However, prison, condemnation, death make no difference to him and to his sense of who he is. All has been taken away from him except for one thing: Christ. That is his success. All will eventually be taken away from you except for Jesus Christ.
Paul stood with Christ. Do you stand for him in your family, your work, among your friends? Do they easily see this in you? Let us look again to God in order to see who I am. As a Christian my identity cannot be only to be a believer, I am invited to be a true disciple. God wants you to enter the Kingdom no matter what stage of life you are at.
Who is the one working the hardest in the gospel (Mt. 20: 1-16)? It is by far the master, the landowner who comes at dawn and then at nine o’clock, again at twelve, three and five. He doesn’t send his foreman; he comes himself. He takes an interest and speaks to each person. The greatest sin in his mind is that they remain idle. He wants to give his gift to everyone, and then they live the gift by giving it to others.
He makes an agreement with them and the root of this word means symphony: there are various voices that are in harmony with one another. God wants to do that in each parish, in each family: many working as one.
When a worker insists on his rights he is no longer in the kingdom. A Christian cannot say, “You love them more than me?” They cannot be equal to me, I did more! How come they get special treatment? In the Kingdom there are no distinctions among workers, everyone is equal. The landowner seems to deliberately create tension by paying the first ones last to see their reaction, to see what is in their hearts. I am not sure how you would react in a similar situation, probably not much different from these workers. The Lord is converting them to be in harmony with the others. Let us continue to follow the Lord since his ways are not my ways.