Scripture: Philippians 3:1-16
Key verse: (7) “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.”
Reflection: When is the last time you put together a resume? January of 2016 I was working on mine as the PNC had asked me for my Personal Information Form — a pastor’s version of a resume. There is the basic information offered about education and degrees. Then of course there is work experience, perhaps with some mention of particular achievements in each job. Then comes participation in the wider church and in the community, any published work, awards and accolades and perhaps prestigious lectures or preaching opportunities. That’s what it looks like for pastors. What does your resume include?
Philippians 3 offers a glimpse of Paul’s resume. It is one of the most powerful autobiographical accounts of his life. He offers his Jewish credentials: circumcised on the eighth day (like saying, “I’m a cradle Presbyterian) of the people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin, (Davidson alum,) a Hebrew born of Hebrews, (multi-generational Presbyterian). Then he shares his religious credentials. He identifies himself as a Pharisee, a distinction that took him years of education and training to attain. He cites his zeal for the faith by recalling his persecution of the church, which would have been understood as combating heresy. Then he offers a stunning assertion: “As to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
Christians often assert that it is impossible for people to follow every part of the law —hence our need for grace. Apparently, Paul did not believe this as he describes himself as “blameless” with regard to following the law. The problem for Paul was not that he couldn’t follow the law; the problem was that following the law did not lead to righteousness as he understood it. Righteousness for Jews meant right-relationship with God and neighbor. The Ten Commandments detail how we live in right-relationship with God and with our neighbors. What Paul discovered was that following every letter of the law did not put him in right relationship with God or neighbor. In fact, it led to a self-righteousness that alienated him from God and led him to persecute his neighbors.
Therefore, he counts all of his achievements as “loss,” compared to the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” as his Lord. Christ is means by which God makes things right. In Christ, we are brought into right relationship with God not by our own achievements, but by God’s grace. In Christ, we are called to live in right relationship with our neighbors, not because we agree with them or are like them, but because God’s grace has claimed us all as God’s own. This is the righteousness that comes through the faith of Christ, not a righteousness of our own that comes from obeying the law.
While our earthly resumes tell the world who we are on the basis of our education and accomplishments, from God’s perspective, none of that really matters. God sees us not through the lens of our resumes, but through the eyes of Jesus Christ. That surpasses any worldly accomplishment. And so Paul concludes that he will press on in continuing to know Christ, because Christ has made Paul his own. That’s what it’s all about for Paul. What’s it all about for you?
Prayer: Help me keep my life in proper perspective, O God. Let me gain Christ, and be found in Him, that I might discover the relationship with you made possible by his faithfulness, even unto death on a cross. I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Empower me to press on to make this goal my own, because Christ has made me his own. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].