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The bits that niggle


by Michael Fischer

There are times when we’re reading the Bible when we come across bits that niggle us. Most of the time we skip past them in the hunt for something we can understand more easily. But if we paused to reflect for a moment on why those bits annoyed us, we might just discover something we need to hear.

Like one week in the Tuesday night Bible study: we were looking at Philippians chapter 3 when we bumped into verse 15. Paul is talking there about his outlook of pressing ahead to win the prize of “perfection” in Christ. Then he says, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

At first sight, we had to admit as a group that this looked like a good example of Paul at his arrogant best! How can he say such a fat-headed thing? It sounds like he’s saying, “You can either agree with me, or be wrong.” I don’t think any of us would ever dream of making such a statement.

More to the point, our society wouldn’t dream of making such a statement. Instead, it would say something like, “Well, if you don’t agree with me, that’s OK. We can both be right.” As we thought about it some more, we realised that we Christians tend to fall for that way of thinking far too often.

The fact that Paul’s words niggle us is really a symptom of how far we’ve drifted. Our society has no place for labelling some outlooks “right” and others “wrong”. And could it be that we Christians have adopted this rubbery outlook, too? After all, there is a right way to live, and a wrong way. Absolutely. There is a mature way of living as a Christian, and there is an immature way. Paul knows this, and so he tells us.

Philippians 3:15 is just a short verse, easy to ignore. But when we stopped to ask some questions about it, it sat up and clocked us one! The Bible has a habit of doing that.

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