If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more… yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. (Philippians 3:4, 7)
This weekend, on the fifth Sunday in Lent, we will explore the famous story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with oil. In our liturgical year, we read the version from John, in which the woman is Jesus’ best friend’s little sister. There will be plenty to consider in just that passage alone and that will be our focus.
However, paired with it (though we will not read it on Sunday) is a passage from Philippians 3. We have been using the Christ Hymn from Philippians 2 as our Affirmation of Faith for this season. And in the chapter following, Paul addresses one of the great sins of the church: self-righteous bragging.
Paul was the epitome of the “faithful” son of God – having fulfilled all the covenantal laws and even being a zealous supporter of the religious establishment. Then he was converted on the road to Damascus and everything changed.
He realized that all of the seemingly pious actions he had been completing and avidly defeating his entire life could not compare to the love of God, displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus. Nor could his life before compare with the new life he received through the life of faith in Christ’s resurrection. So all before was “loss.”
In the modern church, many of us have been raised in the Christian faith and have seemingly lived a “holy” life. At least that’s what we like to portray to the outside world. And boy, do we love to brag about it and shove our piety down other people’s throats.
Make no mistake, it is hubris. And it is sin, because it breaks our relationships with everyone, including God.
Rather than focusing on how much we do “right,” God in Christ invites us to focus our energies on the lives to which we have been called. They are no longer concerned with the opinions of others or our own self-righteous judgments of the fallen – because we realize how fallen we all truly are.
Instead, as Paul himself says, Beloved, I do not consider that I have made [this new life] my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).
The Kingdom is now and there is much work to be done. And rather than resting on our laurels as Christ’s followers, we are to be the ones on the front lines of seeking a better world, with better lives, for all of God’s children. Just like Jesus did. Strive for that and we will find the better way to live. The better way to be church.