Did you know that Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in Europe! She and her household were Apostle Paul’s first convert in the Greek-Roman city of Philippi (see Acts 16); Paul and Silas mission to Philippi was the first time the gospel was preached in Europe – Philippi was thus the gateway of the gospel into Europe.
Philippi was named after King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. In Roman times, this was where Mark Antony and Octavian fought and defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar. As was common at the time, the young Church in the prestigious city of Philippi faced persecution and hardships.
How were these Europeans accustomed to the good life, to respond to the big changes brought by Christianity to their lives? Would they let go of the Philippian dream of a gentle luxury life in this mightily proud city? This is an important background to keep in my mind when reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
So Paul says to them in Philippians 1:27 (New Living Translation): Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.
Paul is saying – in the face of the great challenges we face, let your response and conduct be guided by Christ – not self interests, not pride, not the Philippian dream! Its like saying to Christians in the USA, let your response not be determined by racial pride but by Christ; or to Christians in many developing countries, let your response to challenges you face not be guided by ethnic pride but by Christ!
Our faith calls us to put away pride in challenging times; may the Spirit of Jesus in us, help us live like Jesus in these present times, Amen!