Call it good

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:14-15, NLT
 
As I have said many times, we are living in a time in which incivility and division characterize much of the discourse we hear in the public square. The worst is assumed of the other person, and this general negativity of our culture leads to a tendency to speak words of criticism first even before learning another person’s story.
 
We Christians are no less susceptible to this critical spirit than those who don’t know Jesus. I know I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t first criticize or complain when I run up against something that hits me the wrong way; and I have been on the receiving end of people expressing their critical spirit as well. It seems to me that it is worse than it ever used to be. I wonder if you experience this too.
 
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is giving encouraging words of instruction to his beloved church. He wants them to shine like stars in the world by “doing all things without complaining and arguing.” In the Greek, the first word is defined as “grumbling or murmuring from discontent.” The second word has to do with contentious disputing. (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000)).
 
If there were two words that better describe our world right now, I don’t know what they might be.
 
For Paul, it was important that the church live differently than the “crooked and perverse generation” by providing an example of another way – a way of love and understanding where Christians would lay aside grumbling and arguing. Instead, they would follow the example of Jesus who looked not to his own interests but to the interests of others, and they would work to live in humility with those around them.
 
I think one way that we followers of Jesus can apply these words of Paul in our lives, as we seek to “shine like stars,” is to begin to look for ways to call things “good.” Almost always there is something good that we can focus on in another person or situation rather than the “bad.”
 
My mentor Stan Ott tells the story how a decorating committee of a church he was serving was tasked with changing the decor of the entrance spaces of the church while he was away on sabbatical. When he returned, he was bombarded with complaints about the results. Not everyone liked what was done. However, instead of focusing on the color of the carpet or style of furniture, he focused on their heart of the people on the committee. “Isn’t it good that we have a group of people in the church who are giving their time and effort to make our church’s welcoming spaces more inviting?” The tenor of the discussion changed almost overnight. Instead of complaining about the color of the walls, people began expressing appreciation for the work of the committee.
 
This is the power of “calling things good” and “doing all things without grumbling and complaining.” Almost always, there is something good that we can focus on rather than allow our culture’s critical spirit to permeate our lives. So, I challenge you to begin to look for ways to call something good – at work, at home, in the community, on the ball field, and in church. As we work to apply this practice in our individual and corporate lives, we will be well on our way to shining like stars in the world, and hopefully we will be part of reducing the rancor and division that is so prevalent in our world today.
 
May the Lord bless each of you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee