After Paul has held up examples worthy of imitation, Christ first and then himself, he identifies those whose example the Philippians should not follow. He refers to this group as “enemies of the cross.” He goes on to state that “their god is the belly.” Is Paul suggesting that people who consume more food than they need are enemies of God? I hope not, for then many of us who strive to be followers of Jesus are in trouble.
I believe Paul employs the term enemies of the cross to refer to people who lack self-discipline. We read about these persons who live a life of self-indulgence and gluttony when we read First Corinthians. They interpret Paul’s stating that they are not under the law as a gateway to immorality. They set their minds on earthly things.
But Paul reminds the Philippians that “our citizenship is in heaven.” The Philippians, while Roman citizens, owe an allegiance to an even greater commonwealth: heaven. Christ shared in “the body of our humiliation” that we may share in “the body of his glory.”
Followers of Christ are encouraged to live a disciplined life, not a life of selfish indulgence. We accept the challenge of practicing “spiritual” disciplines—daily Bible study, prayer, and reflection. Few of us are as disciplined in our lives as Jesus or Paul. But most of us strive to be more disciplined in our times of devotion, worship, and physical self-care, which of course includes habits of eating.
How often do you allow earthly things to consume your thoughts and actions? What disciplines will help you redirect your focus to heavenly citizenship?
God of our whole lives, help us imitate Jesus and Paul in our living. May we ever be mindful of our citizenship in heaven. Amen.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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