Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Gaze of the Eyes & Philippians 3

As humans, God created us in community-- to watch, learn from, interact with, and love one another. And that's a beautiful thing. But often, even if we're surrounded by other Christians, our gaze can shift from where it ought to be to focus on things that are at odds with faith in Jesus. We can focus in on beauty, that elusive thing called "happiness", money, fashion, getting prize-winning photos of our children, having an amazingly decorated home, or more...

I've been reading through Philippians over the past few days, and yesterday I came upon the last portion of chapter 3:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

At times that I've read it before, I got hung up on Paul's admonition to the believers to watch him. I would think, "man, would I ever be in a position to say such a thing?" I've heard others attack him for pride on this point. But really, that's not the point of this passage. What I noticed this time was the contrast he presents here-- it's about where our focus is.

He's saying-- don't get caught up being jealous of and making idols of those who are walking in opposition to Christ! They may eat amazing food, they may have lives that seem "enviable", they may seem to have the Pottery Barn life... but he points out: the final stop of their lives will be destruction. They bow down and worship their human appetites and desires. They are focused on earthly things. They revel and delight in things that are shameful.

Instead, our eyes should be fixed on Christ. And we should take as our mentors those who walk in God's ways. Those whose citizenship is in Heaven. Those who eagerly await Christ the Lord, their Savior. Those who recognize the transformation Christ offers now and await the change He'll bring about later. Those who value eternity more than they value the here and now.

Our eyes should gaze in the direction of eternity. It's not wrong to want to learn skills, to work to take care of the home and people God gives you, or to befriend sinners. In fact, those things are good and right and natural for us to learn, and Jesus was and is the ultimate Friend of Sinners. But (I also have to be careful of these things) we have to be careful not to get caught up in fancy photos or (partial) descriptions of someone else's life.

Not only should we not BE the person whose god is our appetite... but we need to keep our gaze from focusing in on the person who lives that way.

We must guard our hearts-- and not let our hearts lust after the life of those who don't know about eternal joy in Christ. OR those who claim Christ's eternal joy but live like they don't really believe it. This passage is saying to us: our priorities need to reflect eternity... and we need to hold fast. That won't happen if our gaze is focused in on those who live like this life on earth is all there is. We have to find people ahead of us-- people worthy of emulation... people who recognize the treasure of Christ and live life in light of eternity. Definitely something to think about.

What say you?
Do you have people like Paul describes in your life that you watch?
Do you struggle with jealousy of those who seem to have a perfect life here on earth?
Do you find yourself leaning towards making a god of your belly or focusing on earthly things?
Let's talk about it.

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