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Radiating His Love: The Power of Good Conduct in Christ



Anyone who spends any time reading the letters contained in the New Testament of the Bible, will quickly notice that the Apostle Paul was on a mission to tell other people how to live.


That’s not too surprising. He was charged with spreading the good news – and helping people understand what that actually meant for their lives.


2000 years later, living in a society that has its roots in the Christian tradition, it’s hard for us to appreciate what he had to contend with. Some of the letters are quite angry as he tries to clarify a point of doctrine or refocus early Christians on the message that first caused them to get baptised.


Some of the letters are written from prison; Paul was seen as a troublemaker, someone who would be better off behind bars.


Much of what he had to say is seen as controversial even today. Possibly much more so than it was then. He was writing in a very different place and time to our own: slavery was normal, men held all the power, many people worshipped the gods of Ancient Greece and Rome…


Philippians is one of the letters written from prison, and it has a rather different tone. It’s a letter of affection and appreciation for the believers in Philippi. Nevertheless, Paul certainly seems to have a relationship with the Philippians that tends towards the authoritarian and/or patronising.


In Chapter 1, he writes:


Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance.’ (The Message)

He writes as if he expects that they might not behave so well if they think he might catch them!


But what exactly does he mean? What does it mean to be a ‘credit to the Message of Christ’?


Traditionally, Christians might be expected not to swear, or get drunk, or gamble. Like Jews, Christians should follow the ten commandments handed down to Moses – they are a pretty basic set of instructions for living peacefully.


But these things were NOT the message of Christ.


If you read other extracts of Paul’s letters, you might come to the conclusion that his definition of good conduct involves women being subservient to men, keeping their heads covered and their mouths closed in church, treating slaves well, or getting (and staying) married.


But if you read the gospels, the message of Christ is pretty clear: love one another.


And Paul reiterates that message far more frequently than some of his more controversial ideas:


The whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”’ (Galatians 5)

Be under obligation to no one – the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law (Romans 13)

I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. (1 Corinthians 13)

Overall, Paul's teachings tell us that love is the guiding principle for Christian conduct, highlighting the importance of selflessness, compassion, and care for others.


So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1, 9-11)

Paul's prayer is that love should lead to good conduct. Love is not meant to be a word or a feeling, but an active force that transforms individuals and their behaviour, ultimately bringing glory and praise to God.


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