Philippians 1:15-18 – Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.
The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while under house arrest in Rome. Paul continued to talk about Jesus to anyone who would listen. The Roman guards all heard the gospel from Paul, and fellow Christians had become more confident in their evangelism because of Paul’s example.
Paul then describes a curious situation. Some were preaching Christ for the purpose of afflicting Paul. We could dream up any number of possibilities about how this preaching might have injured Paul. Perhaps they hoped to wrestle away church leadership from Paul, or maybe jealousy of Paul’s notoriety motivated them to make Paul’s prison stay more restrictive. In any case, people were preaching Christ for the purpose of hurting Paul.
The people were out of line to intentionally afflict Paul, and nobody would have blamed Paul had he defended himself. But notice Paul’s response. He did not attack these hurtful people. Neither did he defend them. Paul also did not ask anybody to feel sorry for him. He simply reported what they were doing and then turned his focus solely upon Jesus. Paul rejoiced that Jesus was proclaimed.
This is reminiscent of John the Baptist. Jesus wasn’t the only one with disciples. John also had disciples who grew defensive when they heard Jesus was baptizing people. They returned to John in disgust. I love the response of John the Baptist, “Christ must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
How about you? Surely you will have people make life difficult for you from time to time. It is hard enough when we experience affliction from the world, but it is especially sad when it comes from within the church. There are certainly times for us to speak the truth in love, but can we also embrace the hearts of John and Paul? Can we sacrifice our own rights and privileges for the sake of the gospel? Let us rejoice whenever Christ is proclaimed, even when it hurts.
Matthew 5:11-12 – Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.