27 Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel. 28 That way, you won’t be afraid of anything your enemies do. Your faithfulness and courage are a sign of their coming destruction and your salvation, which is from God. 29 God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. 30 You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing.
The scripture today reminds me of the main reason that I attend Women’s Bible Study each week. Despite my busy schedule, I know that I am better off “united in one spirit and mind” with a group of women, also “struggl(ing) together to remain faithful to the gospel.” As we share learning, laughter and sometimes hardship, we find community through understanding the meaning of the Bible in our own lives. While I don’t wish to speak for the feelings of the other women who attend, to me, sharing this time encourages my faith and commitment to Christ’s mission. This is even when, most especially when, I struggle. Together, as we share in reading God’s Word, we grow in strength and community.
I also hear (and feel) through Philippians the importance of being with the greater Christian community through these words of the Apostle Paul. As Christians, Paul has shared with us a common way of knowing suffering that transcends time and any circumstances. Nearly two thousand years later, maybe we can’t totally relate to the unique hardships of Paul’s time, yet we can relate to knowing what suffering feels like. We can relate to the shared struggles of a hurting community. We can relate to the togetherness that builds unity, for our own well-being, as well as for Christ’s sake.
We depend on our communities of faith, families and friends to keep us alive, finding meaning and joy, and to know us even in our struggles. Imagine for a moment that each of us grew devoid of knowing this kind love. May Paul’s words remind us that we are often better together than we ever could be alone. May Paul’s words remind us that when we suffer, there is another who has suffered and struggled even though he did not have to! There is another who is uniquely tied to us and who was willing to suffer in our place.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
How has being in your Christian community made a difference in understanding and living through your hardships?
Prayer: Brother Jesus, hold me close to you when I cry out to you. Let me know when I struggle that you are near. Because I know that you too have suffered, I am strengthened by your presence and love. Thank you for the blessing of your grace. Amen.
Our Lenten Series
For our Lent series this year, we’ll be using the Adam Hamilton book Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws. At his website, you can find a 40-day reading plan to help you read through the Gospel of Luke during Lent. And join us for worship, in-person or online, at 9:00 & 10:30 every Sunday.