Years ago, I was introduced to the Lectio Divina by Eugene Peterson. This practice is made up of 4 elements: lectio (we read the text), meditatio (we meditate the text), oratio (we pray the text), and contemplatio (we contemplate the text). I’ve used the practice to read through several books of scripture, and it has been a blessing. I have begun the year doing this, journaling my thoughts as I read through the book of Philippians. The first two verses, while seemingly insignificant, are powerful.
This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. (NLT)
There is no authority listed by Paul. No mention of him being an apostle. Just his name, along with Timothy’s. That tells me that they knew each other well. They had a depth of friendship and Paul didn’t feel a need to establish authority. Timothy is part of this story. His is not less than Paul, but a colleague. I remember when my doctoral mentor, Len Sweet, walked into our first cohort meeting, he greeted us as colleagues. He made sure to note that he wanted to learn as much from us and we might from him.
It’s positional. It’s humility. It’s a true understanding of who you are, who you are in Christ, and what your role is in the larger scheme of God’s plan.
Paul notes that he and Timothy are slaves. Owned by someone else. Told “to do” by someone else. They are slaves to God. And we too are “slaves” to God. We listen and hear his voice and carry out His wishes. It is a choice we made. We decided to enter into that role, realizing we had a debt we could not pay and sought out the only one who could pay it. We signed our life away.
But we are not just a “slave”. The word also means “servant” and is the same word used in the Old Testament to refer to the “Servant of the Lord.” We have an honored position of service to God the Father and to Christ his Son. So while we have chosen to place ourselves into his service, he has positioned us in an important role as one who would express the goodness, grace, and love of God to the world in which we live.
And we are connected not just to God, but to others. We are part of a holy people, in the same position as the Israelites in Ex. 19 (also 1 Peter 2) who God chose to care for and love as his own precious family. He cares and provides for us; we listen and honor him. That was the ask then, and it’s the same ask now. As God ensured that he would honor it all then, he does the same today.
And we are God’s slaves, servants, and holy people in a specific place and time. For the Philippians, it was 2000 years ago in on a Greek island. For us, it’s where we are located in this year.
And we belong to Jesus. The first of 61 references to Jesus in the book. It’s how we are all connected. We are not connected by rules or laws or even minute beliefs. We are connected together by our relationship with Jesus.
You and I may have different beliefs about various aspects of theology. Or Politics. Or football. But what, actually who, ties us together is Jesus. This is where we find common ground. And even though we are different, and are from different backgrounds, we are the same…because of Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus allows us to come together and serve one another and love one another.
Our relationship with Jesus allows us to come together and serve the world.
In our Glocal world.
And if we locate ourselves there, in Christ, we find ourselves with the opportunity to see God’s Kingdom grow and our lives enriched by the diversity that comes with our common confidence and trust in Jesus.