You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. - Philippians 2:15
Alexander Pope, the crippled eighteenth-century poet, wrote gloomy verse describing his world as he saw it.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Not public flame, nor private dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreated word;
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,
And universal darkness buries all.12
The apostle Paul and Alexander Pope possibly held similar views of the world’s darkness, but Paul did not content himself with writing gloomy verse about it. He saw the darkness as a chance to shine! Paul encouraged his friends, “You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them” (Phil. 2:15). Some men content themselves with cursing the darkness, but Paul challenged it.
How are men to shine in a dark world? First of all, it is matter of downright obedience. “Let your lives shine” is not a suggestion—it is an order! In his absence from them, Paul instructed his friends, “Be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear” (2:12). The problem for many people is that the fear of perverse people outweighs the fear of the Lord, and the pull of the darkness is more powerful than the “desire to obey him” (2:13). Even if the fear of people and the pull of darkness can be overcome, how does one find the strength to live “clean, innocent lives” in such a polluted atmosphere?
Paul’s words address this issue in masterly fashion. The key to all spiritual life is found in the indwelling presence of the Lord. The believer needs to know that “God is working in you,” imparting both “the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (2:13). This does not excuse a passive approach to life which says, “If he’s living in me and he’s going to do it, let him!” Rather, it inspires the discouraged, the fearful, and the inadequate to obey, knowing that God not only inspires the desire, but also empowers the action. And the light shines brightly.
For Further Study: Philippians 2:5-18