Day 34: Whatever
A LoveSingapore 40.Day prayer and fast devotional, following 2022's theme of To Live Is Christ: A Journey Through the Book of Philippians.
LoveSingapore // August 3, 2022, 12:01 am
Bible reading for 40.DAY 2022 | Philippians 4:8–9
In addition to prayer and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7), Paul now introduces two more ways to experience divine peace: meditation and imitation; something to think about, and something to do.
Surprisingly, however, the object of meditation Paul prescribes here is not Scripture per se. But “whatever”! The virtue-list that follows, though consistent with Scripture, is straight out of the pagan culture of Philippi.
Paul’s readers would have learned these things in “primary” school.
This is enlightening. The Gospel does not require us to reject everything in our culture, even if it’s pagan culture. On the contrary, the Church is free to affirm and assimilate whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy in “whatever” culture we happen to live in.
This six-fold “whatever” means that nothing consistent with the Gospel and the values of the kingdom is to be excluded. And thinking about such things is a way of shaping our own values and behaviour accordingly.
We should make the most of “whatever” common ground we find between our faith and that of our neighbours.
Therefore, as citizens of heaven in the Republic of Singapore, we are not supposed to live as counter-culture misfits in our multi-cultural society. For the sake of the Gospel, we should make the most of “whatever” common ground we find between our faith and that of our neighbours.
Paul, for example freely quotes “whatever is true”, even from the mouth of a pagan poet, prophet, or philosopher (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12-13).
But this calls for discretion.
Meditating on whatever is true, noble, just, and so on, should not only shape our convictions and conduct. It should also sharpen our spiritual senses to detect “whatever” is counterfeit, “whatever” is dishonourable, “whatever” is unjust, “whatever” is immoral, “whatever” is unethical, “whatever” is idolatrous.
These are to be rejected, along with all anti-Gospel values such as “relativism, materialism, hedonism, nationalism, individualism”, and so on (Gordon Fee).
Now Paul concludes his last exhortation in this letter with something to do. Imitate him: What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).
Paul had no qualms about holding up his own character and conduct as a standard of Christian behaviour. And why should he? He is not on an ego trip. He is crucified with Christ and dead to the world. He wants the best for all his readers, including you.
May the peace of God be with you (Philippians 4:7). May the God of peace be with you (Philippians 4:9).
1 Citizens of heaven do not abandon the world. We are in the world for the Gospel (John 17:14-19). Although evil is rampant, there is also much that is good, true, and beautiful in every culture on earth.
Citizens of heaven do not abandon the world. We are in the world for the Gospel.
Pray: Lord, we confess that as Christians in multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, we tend to see what is best in our own community and what is worst in others. Forgive us. Deliver us from racial prejudice and religious pride. Open our minds to perceive, respect, and receive whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable in every ethnic group. Teach us to become all things to all people, loving our neighbours as ourselves, so that by all means we may save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Mark 12:31).
2 Citizens of heaven make the most of whatever common ground they find on earth – even among pre-believers – to seek the welfare of their city. Our founding fathers “envisioned Singapore as a democracy of deeds – an active citizenry, engaged in the community, working together for the public good”.
In this regard, how ‘together’ are we with our fellow Singaporeans? Have we been small-minded, narrrow-minded, and closed-minded? Limiting our involvement to initiatives that bear the Christian label? Instead, can we pray for, celebrate, support, and bless every good, authentic, beautiful, compelling, commendable, and noble initiative that seeks the welfare of our city – regardless which group is behind it?
Citizens of heaven do not compromise with the world.
3 Citizens of heaven do not compromise with the world. We are in the world but not of the world. Pray for divine discernment to detect worldly values in every culture, including our own church culture. Reject whatever is counterfeit, whatever is dishonourable, whatever is unjust, whatever is unethical, whatever is idolatrous, whatever is immoral, whatever is impure, whatever is perverse. Renounce relativism, materialism, individualism, egoism, humanism, hedonism, legalism, antinomianism, fatalism, and all other -isms that run contrary to the way of the Cross.
4 Citizens of heaven stand up for whatever is true, pure, and right concerning Morality, Marriage, and Family. Pray that from generation to generation, Singapore’s conservative social norms will be preserved. And protected by our laws. And reinforced in all our national policies:
- Gender: Defined as male or female (Matthew 19:4).
- Marriage: Defined as heterosexual between one male and one female.
- Family: Defined as constituting one male as father, one female as mother, and the children they bring forth from this sacred union.
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