Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)
It’s hard not to notice how critically negative some folks can be all while claiming to be “saved by the grace of God.” It seems that “salvation” for these people puts them in a place where they can become unmerciful critics of anything that does not meet their self-righteous standards. Their attacks range from political issues (and politicians themselves), to cultural values (only theirs are the right ones), to thoughtless criticism of religious views and traditions that do not meet their demanding standards. The list goes on, but you probably get my drift.
How unlike Jesus, or even Paul who felt that the repressive and often dangerous political situations of their day were not the ultimate concerns of the time (though fairness and justice were constantly encouraged). It’s interesting that they never sought to condemn the political authorities of the day, even though Paul and Jesus would both meet their death at the hands of the Roman government.
Cultural values and systems likewise were not their primary concerns. They both knew that cultures are not sanctified by condemning those who participated in them. Certainly some aspects of their cultures were inconsistent with the gospel, and had to be (and were) rejected, but both understood that human culture was by its very nature alienated from God, so sinful behavior in a sinful world was no surprise. The answer was a new, sanctified life in Christ for every individual possible. The world was never going to change by shrill judgement and condemnation.
Even other religious views and traditions were not something that could be altered by shunning those who disagreed. Human hearts are changed by the love of God in Christ, something that God does, not us. Our part is to live with love for God, and for our neighbors filling our hearts; that will do more to bring people to Christ than our angry words, impatient shouting, and self-righteous condemnation could ever do. What if the people around us saw us living out the words of Philippians 4:8 (above)? Do you think they might actually think that knowing Christ is worthwhile after all?