Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paul, Philippians, Being a Real Man, Being a Pastor

One dimension I absolutely adore in Philippians is the love Paul expresses for his converts. Some people think Paul is a hard man, that he is anti-woman, that he had an anger problem etc. Look more closely and you see that is not the case. The only time Paul really gets aggressive is with false teachers who are plundering his flock. Take 2 Cor 10-12, Galatians and Phil 3:2, 18 and you will see these examples. He becomes a shepherd defending his flock, and calls people angels of Satan, dogs, evil workers, mutilators etc., and even tells them to emasculate themselves. Tis true in 2 Corinthians he gets quite sarcastic with his opponents, and that there are texts that appear anti-women; yet, on closer analysis one finds Paul to be utterly counter cultural in regards to his language.

Leaving aside the issue of women and Paul, look at Philippians his language. We see Paul the shepherd, Paul the pastor.

In 1:2 he does what he always does one way or another, and prays a blessing of peace and grace on his readers. In 1:3-8 he is so loving it is almost mushy. He thanks God every time he remembers them. He prays with joy over them. He assures them of God's providential concern for them. He says 'I have you in my heart' (see Wallace, Grammar on this translation). He calls God as witness as to how he longs for them(epipotheo) all with the affection of Christ Jesus. The word for affection is a deep word, splagchnon. Literally, it means the guts, the viscera (cf. Acts 1:18). Figuratively, it means in the depths of the being, the heart. He longs in his guts for them. An associated term is repeatedly used in the Gospels of Jesus' compassion for people (e.g. Matt 14:14). He longs for them and loves them. This is non-manly language in the ancient world. It is counter-cultural. It is insanely pastoral. It shows that Paul loves them. Remember too that in Philippians the church is divided to some extent; Paul says he loves them all, despite their division. The calling of God as witness is not unique, but radical.

Tracking through the letter we see more of this love-language. He wants them to love more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (1:9-10). He favourably speaks of Roman Christians who preach out of love (1:16). He uses 'brother' meaning 'brother and sister' (1:12; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21) repeatedly to assure them of their oneness in the family of God the father (1:2). Phil 2:1 is cool! In this verse he lays the foundation for the appeal that will follow giving 4 'if any' constructs, speaking of the Trinity, God's love, the foundation of all love. 'If any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any koinonia in the Spirit, if any affection and compassion' (note affection here is the same term as in 1:8). This all combines to speak of a God who loves us! If any... yeah baby, heaps! An eternal load of love!

He then appeals for them to love each other, find unity, emulate Christ, stop scrapping, live out the gospel so people are saved (2:2-18). The Christ pattern in 2:6-11 is the heart of the letter, Jesus through love coming to earth to give himself for us! It is his affection with which Paul loves them in 1:8. It is Christ's love and comfort that sustains them in 2:1. Every example in the letter relates to Christ. He is the pattern for living, for loving. He redefines masculinity away from Greco-Roman notions of being 'above' such things, of renouncing emotion as non-manly etc. He embodies the fullness of both heart and mind... no dualism in Paul, none in Christ. It's ok to cry men, to express emotion. It's ok to sing Jesus is my boyfriend songs and sit and weep with those who suffer. It's ok to love your people pastors. In fact, its the guts of ministry.

Then he gives two glorious examples of selflessness, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Lovingly he speaks of Timothy as his son serving at his side in the gospel, a beautiful image of father and son working together in harmony (2:22). He lovingly describes Epaphroditus in an OTT five-fold way: 'my brother, co-worker, fellow-soldier; your apostle, minister to my needs', Then in Phil 3 he speaks of false examples, the Judaisers, and other pagan-influenced enemies (3:18) who embody a false gospel of legalism and libertinism. Note in 3:1 where he reminds them of constant warning, and more importantly, in 3:18 where speaks of being in tears for them as he warns them. That is not manly. But it is the heart of pastoral ministry!

Then in 4:1 he gets unbelievably intimate. In one verse he lays together five words of intimacy: the Philippians are his 'brothers and sisters, my beloved (agapetos; ah, that makes me tear up), my longed-for ones (epipothetos; same family of words as in 1:8), my joy and crown, beloved (again).' It is like he is saying, 'you complete me!' They are his crowning glory. This precedes what will then follow, a direct appeal to the conflicting women to be one again. It makes sure that they know that, despite their conflict, he loves them! Like God's love for us which is inextinguishable (Rom 8:35-39), his love for them is undiminished, despite their scrap.

Then he goes OTT again as he talks of their gifts to him, waxing lyrical about how he is amply supplied and that they are a 'fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God' (4:10-19). Finally he gives another blessing of grace (4:23).

In Philippians Paul redefines masculinity (actually Jesus had already done so and Paul imitates him cf. 1 Cor 11:1) and shows us who lead God's people what it means to love. It means to love, be a shepherd. As the old song goes, 'the King of love my shepherd is', and we should be so. Yes, there is a time to rebuke. But love is the foundaton. All rebuke and critique MUST come out of love. We need to remember this when we look at others, the church, the world and want to give it heaps for its failure. Love must be the basis of all that is said and done. Indeed, all is vanity without it. Check out 1 Cor 13. Read it as the centre of 1 Cor 12-14, what matters is not superb charisma and spiritual giftedness, what matters is love; it is the heart of Christian character. It is the missing dimension in today's church. What is needed is a new charismatic renewal, this time a karpotic renewal (fruit = karpos in Greek), the outpouring of spiritual fruit on the people of God, flowing to one another, and out to the world. Then we will see the church and world transformed. It begins with pastors and leaders. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.


Sean said...

You can see this clearly in 1 Thessalonians. Paul calls himself a mother, a child (not gentle), and a father. Clearly, he has no problem using female imagery to convey his heartfelt affection for his Churches (cf. Gal. 4:19). It is the mark of true Christ-like discipleship that we become "all things to all, that we might win them."

Love your work.

Dr Mark K said...

So true Sean. Great point of connection. Similarly, 1 Cor 3 where he speaks of feeding them with milk and not solid food; the image of a mother feeding her kids. Paul was not afraid to embrace his 'feminine side'... Mind you. Neither should we turn him into anything other than a man - a man with a real heart, like Jesus! I love the image of Jesus with kids on his knee blessing them. So cool.

Dr Mark K said...

By the way, there is a doctorate in this... Paul's use of affectionate language set against Greco-Roman views of masculinity ... or something similar.

Sean said...

Trevor Burke has done some excellent work on the familial images in 1 Thessalonians, and Beverly Gaventa has nailed the "Our Mother Saint Paul" but you're right, against the Greco-Roman background, not much.

Anonymous said...

Who put our ministers/priests etc up the front, elevated like band leaders? It does not seem to be Paul, he seems not to be afraid to lead but he also does not seem afraid to reveal who he is warts and all. I wonder if such a leader would be accepted today as we don't like to be put in our place and our leaders are supposed to be 'more holy' than us . . . it is not an enviable situation and should give us all pause to remember those who take up the task they are given by our Lord in our prayers.

The only thing that jarred with me Mark in your post (and I may be out of line so apologise in advance) was this comment ".. What is needed is a new charismatic renewal .." because what I think I need (maybe others to?) is not another renewal but a restoring of our souls to the renewal that took place when we invited Jesus Christ our God into our lives. I liken the process to a restorer working slowly and carefully on a masterpiece cleaning away the layers of dirt that have built up over time, maybe we need to put ourselves more into the hands of the Spirit of God to cleanse away the layers we have allowed to 'blur' the glory of His indwelling. Trouble is restoration takes time and patience things I often fail to provide or exhibit. (sorry for hijacking the comment and turning it into a post *smile*)

Dr Mark K said...

Hey George, good stuff bro. I am not sure that leadership status has changed. If anything, aside from the mega and pente churches, leaders are not elevated like this anymore. In fact, in history, they were elevated more. Take for example Christendom when the priest ruled the parish, sat beside kings etc. It has broken down a lot actually. They have always been elevated. In the Reformation it became based around preaching. Now it is music. I don't think it has been different and ever will be. Leadership in the Christian world is really really hard as you juggle expectations, your own weaknesses and struggles, your own faith challenges, being a servant, yet leading at the same time. I think it is hard. NZ Christians are hard to work with. Like all Kiwis they are in the main, anti-institutional and suspicious of authority. I am not as fussed as you about these things. But, yes, we need more authenticity and reality from those who lead. But it is not easy, I know from bitter experience.

On the other question I agree with you. Note how I move on to define what I mean as a karpotic renewal; from the Greek karpos meaning fruit. What I mean, is that we need an outpouring of the Spirit in the sense of His fruit i.e. love, joy, peace etc, Gal 5. You have highlighted the heart of this; for this to occur, we need heart transformations. Great point! We need a renewal that starts with the renewal of the heart.

Spectacular image you give: Jesus 'restoring a masterpiece.' Nice! Surely the key is to let the Spirit have reign in our lives.

Don't apologise for such profundity bro!

Anonymous said...

Mate I understand what you say about the 'challenges' those in leadership face . . . no answers here, just respect (but to often I confess to being judgmental as well)

As to this "karpotic renewal" heck I did not even know what that meant if you had not told me *smile* I regretted what I said, felt guilty, as I have no right to even offer such an opinion sinner that I am, yet if I may take some solace it is that God can use even the least of us, as I am, to offer a perspective on matters such as this, then in His love He mediates that perspective to one or thousands for our good and His glory.
Keep posting mate, it is awesome stuff!!!