When tourists arrive in Singapore, they are often given a “code of conduct” – a list of dos and don’ts. The first one that is often mentioned even as flights land at Changi airport has to do with drugs. Others include selling of chewing gums, littering, spitting, nudity, smoking in public places, vandalism etc. Interestingly, forgetting to flush the toilet after use could cost you a fine of $150! All these things are put in place so that there is some form of orderliness. Tourists often mention that security and safety are the two main reasons for visiting Singapore.
Singapore being a multicultural city has many interesting cultures and traditions. It has its own unique flavour and I remember talking to citizens who are very happy and proud (in a good way) to be Singaporeans. As an Indian, I have encountered many Singaporeans of Indian origin who no longer wish to be associated with India. And they have very good and valid reasons for doing so. The same is true of many Chinese whose ancestors came from China. For many, there is value and worth associated with the Singaporean identity. For many Singaporeans, abiding by the rules has become second nature to them and it is what makes Singapore a desirable place and society for many. We not only have Singaporeans of Chinese, Indian and Malay roots but of Eurasians and others too.
And then we have the church where we have foreigners like me and many others in the Thai congregation. As True Way celebrates 25 years, what can we look forward to? What is it that will keep us together when we come from such diverse backgrounds?
The church in Philippi was going through a similar episodewhen Paul wrote a “Thank-You” letter to them because they supported his missionary work. Philippi was a Roman colony but majority of the residents were Greeks. The residents were mostly veterans (retired from the army) and were given special privileges such as citizenship and land. There were those who were not citizens but they enjoyed the benefits of living in Philippi. But due to their diverse backgrounds and persecution, Paul could sense a growing division among the members of the church. In four verses (Philippians 1:27-30) Paul addressed their ‘code of conduct’ and the message is still very relevant for us today.
Philippians 1:27-30(ESV)27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
In one sentence, Paul instructed them to “behave” (1:27). It is like the Singaporean way of saying “careful, careful”. This phrase, I must say, is loaded. The Philippians were to behave as citizens of Philippi while enjoying the privileges and benefits but also fulfilling their responsibilities and duties. But their behavior was to be different because although they prided themselves in being Roman citizens, they were to behave in a way that befits the gospel because they are now citizens of heaven. Therefore, their code of conduct would come from the GOSPEL of Christ; not just by the standards of Philippi. How would they do it?
Firstly they were to be united in spirit and in mind. Paul uses the imagery of gladiators standing with one another in the arena, forming a circle with their shields against the enemy. Once their unity (circle) is broken, it would become easy for the enemy to break in and take them down.
Secondly they were not to be startled by the enemies (1:28). Again Paul uses the imagery of horses engaged in war whereby, if they are startled, they could flee in the face of danger. By standing confidently with one another, they would not be startled.
Paul goes on to say that their unity would be a sign of their salvation and the destruction of the opponents. The reason was because God gave them the ability to believe in Him in the first place (1:29). It was a gracious gift. Not only was the gift to believe given to them, they were also given the gift to suffer for God’s sake.
Lastly Paul encouraged them using his own struggles as an example that they were all suffering for the same cause, ie., the for the sake for the gospel (1:30).
We can learn a few lessons from here.1. At True Way, we come from different backgrounds and will hold different views but may our code of conduct come from loving God and responding to God’s love for us in the first place. 2. As a church, we must be united and stand together otherwise others will not believe the gospel we preach and profess to hold. Our enemy is the devil; not each other. This will apply to every one of us at every level; from the pastors, elders, deacons, ministries, DGs, YZs, YAMmers, Sunday School, committees and so forth. 3. As followers of Christ, there will be suffering and we should not be surprised because it is a privilege which was graciously given to us. “To suffer because we are Christians show the world how much we value Jesus Christ.” (Dr Tan KH in A Guide to Galatians & Philippians, 151)4. God has blest True Way for the past 25 years and it is a blessing and a privilege. God would want us all to be salt and light of the world; at work, at home or at play. Our code of conduct must be consistent with the gospel so much so that others will see Christ in us. May others not say that True Wayans behave only on Sundays.
As we celebrate 25 years of God’s faithfulness, may we glorify Him by our Christian conduct.
Pr Loliro Sani
October 15, 2017