After a hectic day, especially in the fall, when the weather is turning cold, the sun setting earlier and earlier, I really need something to unwind. This is also the time when students are starting to stress about their final portfolios (and transferring stress to me). I unwind on my couch with a nice cup of hot tea. There’s something soothing about holding that hot ceramic mug that instantly relaxes me. I know I sound like some cheesy commercial, but it’s true. I can pretend that all the hectic things from my day are now in the past and I can unwind a bit as I blow my tea cool to the point I can actually drink it.
The Book of Philippians reads like Paul’s cup of hot tea.
After some of the preachy moments in previous books, I was relieved to reach Philippians (a rather short book), which Paul uses to reach out to the citizens of Philippa as he is jailed in Rome. Lest his audience be worried, he assures them that being imprisoned will not quench his religious conviction; on the contrary, he feels it has advanced the gospel (1:7, 12).
There’s little here that is not covered (or at least alluded to) elsewhere. But what’s notable about this book of the Bible is how positive it sounds throughout.
If people are looking for a concise representation of the impression Jesus made on his followers, this book offers a nice glimpse. Absent are the rules discussed elsewhere—no extended discussions about sin or divorce or immorality, etc.; here, instead, is a discussion of the spirit of Christianity and how its followers should devote more time to the interests of others (i.e. care about the people around them) (2:4). There’s a bit of emphasis on the afterlife—Paul is looking forward to spending time with Jesus in Heaven (1:23) and evil people spend too much time thinking about earthly pleasures (3:19).
Still, these moments don’t feel heavy handed—as they could have been. You know, that you need to embrace pain, tragedy, etc. all so you can reap the rewards in heaven. Rather, unlike previous books, Paul comes across as sharing rather than dictating, and this is refreshing.
This is the type of book you would want to drink in again and again, and perhaps if more were as positive, more people who have avoided the Bible would find something to embrace and not maintain such a cynical impression of it.