Thursday, November 13, 2008


Is there anything worth living for? That question is typically answered by the converse: "Is there anything worth dying for?". (Incidentally, please excuse the dangling prepositions: Winston Churchill saw their value, stating "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.")

The Apostle Paul walks the line between wanting to live (that he might be of use to Christians such as those he wrote in Philippi) and to die (that he might be with Christ), concluding that for him "to live is Christ, to die is gain". He later takes up the image of profit in the same letter and concludes that, in comparison to "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord", all of the considerably wonderful things in the opposing column which summarise his life lack any profit for him -- they are as rubbish by comparison. Paul speaks of matters of life and death, and remarkably, of peace which passes all understanding. Losing everything in life, and facing death, are not things that are usually in the "peace-giving" category. But Paul has his eyes fixed on Christ and thus experiences a peace which is miraculous. (He himself wrote from prison).

The surpassing value of Jesus, in Paul's description, trumps everything else that is normally found in the gain or loss columns of life. One might speak of his experience of Christian life as a paradigm shift. His categories were transformed, as was his experience. So much so that he can say he has joy in suffering (for the sake of the Gospel), and that he is glad for his imprisonment (if it would advance the Gospel).

My own reflection is that Paul the prisoner has the real freedom. This is the heart of discipleship, isn't it? Looking with new eyes on the world, and longing for more.

Bishop JC Ryle wrote: A true believer is not ruled by the world's standard of right or wrong, of truth or error. He is independent of the world's opinions. He cares little for the world's praise. He is not moved by the world's blame. He does not seek for the world's pleasures. He is not ambitious of the world's rewards. He looks at the things unseen. He sees an invisible Savior, a coming judgment, and a crown of glory which never fades away. The sight of these objects makes him think comparatively little of this glittering world. Where the world reigns in the heart, there is no saving faith.

In addition to possessing an incredible beard, I note that the bishop was a rower.