As part of my own prayer practice, I’ve been spending my bible study time with the daily lectionary. Often these texts bring out prayerful time with God for me. But today’s text brings out some of my own grumbling .
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul’s words to the church in Philippi had me rumbling a bit when I first read it. But then I thought more about why his prescription for conflict avoidance bothered me. And I think it’s because upon first reading, I worried over how this text might be used around issues of conflict. Because conflict isn’t bad, disagreeing isn’t the end of the world, but it’s how we go about it.
And so when I looked past my initial reaction, I realized that maybe Paul is right here. Complaining and arguing are often not the best ways to move through conflict, but rather with calm and respectful dialogue. So how do we do that?
Instead of grumbling
Paul implies that by simply not moaning and groaning or fighting over disagreements the members of the church in Philippi will become “blameless and pure.”
That’s a nice thought. And we know that we can only work towards those kinds of goals. And Paul does a good job reminding us that it’s “God who works in you.”
So with God working in us, what can we do?
Instead of finding ourselves in those groaning and moaning cycles of disappointment and frustration, what if we leaned towards God’s work in us? Leaning towards God’s will? Or at the very least lifting these conversations to God in prayer?
How might that change our relationships? Our conversations?
I find more and more, especially with our political climate and in our culture, it becomes harder to disagree. We struggle to have conversations with those who are different from us or who have different beliefs or opinions. But what if we let God be at work in our conversations? This leaves me with a bit less grumbling about Paul, and a lot more hope for what could happen. What do you think?