Thursday, August 16, 2018
Philippians 4:8 8Finally, brothers, whatever is lovely…think about such things.
Acts 28:1-2 1Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.
How are you doing so far at transforming your thinking so that it conforms to the nature and character of God? It’s hard work, isn’t it? I know I find myself easily slipping back into the pattern of thinking I learned from the world and my flesh. But the Holy Spirit is active in our hearts and minds, and He is changing us into the image of Jesus Christ – Hallelujah!
So far in Philippians 4:8 we have been challenged to think according to the truth; to think about that which honors God and is noble; to think in terms of righteousness and justice; and to keep our minds pure and holy. Today we are told by Paul to think only about what is lovely.
The Biblical word lovely is not the word we normally use in our culture to describe beauty. Our brains do not need to be trained to think about beauty. God created us with an incredible appreciation of things that are lovely and pleasing to the eye. We by nature find beauty in nature. We enjoy the changing colors of the leaves in the fall. We are in awe of natural wonders like mountains and Grand Canyons. We are amazed at the diversity and splendor of the vivid colors of animals and fish. We do not need to be taught to see beauty.
The word lovely in Philippians 4:8 is a compound word, and this is the only place in the entire Bible where this word is used. One of the parts of the word is the Greek word phileo, which means to love by treating affectionately or kindly, to welcome, to befriend. It is the word from which we get the name of the city Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. The other part of the word means to direct towards another. The full meaning of lovely then is to direct brotherly love towards others. Paul says that we are to be constantly thinking about how we can be friendly to other people.
Late in Paul’s life, on his boat ride to Rome, he is shipwrecked on the island of Malta. When everyone on the boat arrives safely on shore, the natives approach them. They are strangers to one another with no way to communicate because they do not speak the same language. To our knowledge they have never been told about Jesus Christ, and in fact when Paul is healed from the venomous bite of a snake, they believed that he was a god and wanted to worship him. Yet when Paul and his shipmates floated ashore, the natives showed unusual kindness to them. They welcomed them and built them a fire so they could warm up and dry out.
Two very important words are used by Luke when he describes this event – kindness (phileo) and welcomed, which is the word used to describe someone who takes another into their home as a companion. Luke emphasizes that the brotherly love that was shown was unusual in nature, meaning that it was not just a little kindness, but it went far beyond the ordinary.
This is the model of how we are to be thinking when it comes to our relationships with other people. This is the essence of what Jesus taught when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43 – 45) Jesus went on to say in Luke 6:32 – 36, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
That’s challenging! If it wasn’t, maybe you should read it again. When we think according to the nature and character of God, we do not discriminate when it comes to showing brotherly love to others. As followers of Jesus Christ, we do not have the privilege or the right to choose whom to love or treat with kindness. But we must also understand that we don’t get to stop at a level of kindness that is convenient or socially acceptable: we are to show unusual kindness – the type of kindness modeled by Jesus Himself. The type of kindness that directs good at those who have harmed us or who might harm us. The type of kindness that goes the extra mile and gives the extra garment. This is what will make us lovely.
Unfortunately, we are the victims of fleshly thinking and we do discriminate when it comes to doing good. Our thought process is corrupted by our emotional needs and our predication to self-preservation. We must ask the Holy Spirit to begin to change our thinking so that we truly love all others the way Jesus loved them and loves them still.
We the people of God can be lovely by showing unusual kindness towards others, whoever they are. The ungodly people of Malta had no way of knowing what to expect from Paul and the others who drifted onto their shore, but they directed brotherly love at them anyway. How much more should we who know Jesus do the same!