Life Without Complaints
Do everything without complaining or arguing? I do not know about you, but I have a lot of room for improvement in this area. Complaining and arguing seems to be the principal modus operandi of the culture today. It seems that if it were not for complaining and arguing, we would have neither politics, nor 24/7 cable news outlets. The old teenage mantra of “Everybody does it,” seems to have become the very foundation of our post-modern culture. There, you see! I am complaining again. One cannot help but wonder what might happen if we all started looking for the good news in others, instead of the bad news all the time.
I suspect that the same was true in Paul’s time. Hence his admonition to the Philippian community here. He, more than most, might be forgiven for complaining about how he was maltreated for his faith, or about all the troubles and difficulties he must have encountered trying to spread the gospel in the midst of the decadent Roman world. Let’s face it, complaining and arguing removes us from having to look at our own faults and failings, first. The uncomfortable truth is that, If we do not address our own faults and failings first, we will never be able to begin the struggle to become pure and blameless. We should be “fixing” our own selves before we spend too much time complaining about others.
Paul’s deep and abiding faith in Christ Jesus informs his thinking here under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The culture then, was, and our own culture now, is, “warped and crooked.” It is made so by the manifold realities of sin. There is no point in complaining about it. Almost all of it is completely out of our control anyway. Certainly there is no purpose in arguing with it. What Jesus wants is that we become pure and blameless ourselves so that we may become the leaven that the world so desperately needs. Paul is telling us that we will not change people’s hearts and attitudes by complaining or arguing. This is not what will bring others to Christ, no matter how appropriate that complaining, or how competent those arguments may be. Rather, what changed people’s hearts and attitudes in Paul’s time was seeing Christians practicing what they preached in every aspect of their lives. And so it ought to be today. We are to lead by example.
It is very hard in our human weakness to be “pure and blameless.” Indeed, it is not possible for us to be so without humbly giving ourselves over to God and his grace. We will never be “perfect” in this life, but our desire to be pure and blameless does not go unnoticed by the love of God. We can be assured that he will never abandon us. We can also take comfort in knowing that, if and when we fail, he will be there to pick us up, to forgive us, and to help us to carry on along the pilgrim road. Jesus wants us to be different. In the darkness of the world he wants us to shine “like stars in the sky.” (verse 15) In order to do this we must stop our complaining and arguing. We must clean up our own house, let go of our own pride, and begin the practice of looking for the good news in others through God’s eyes, rather than always complaining about their faults and arguing with them through our own, too often, clouded eyes.
Come Holy Spirit! Sweep our souls clean of complaint and argument. Give us the courage of a pure and blameless faith so that we might come to see all of humanity, and the world, as the Father did at the end of each day of creation saying, “It is good.” We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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