Conduct Yourselves in a Way Worthy of the Gospel of Christ

We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Antoni Piotrowski, “Intention,” 1912
Antoni Piotrowski, “Intention,” 1912 (photo: Public Domain)

Paul exhorts the Philippians in 1:27 to “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This exhortation comes after Paul reflects on his absence from the community and his imprisonment, and how the Philippians should be steadfast in the faith whether he is there or not. Paul reflects that this steadfast and unified adherence to the gospel would serve as proof to the opponents of the gospel, of the salvation of the Philippians, which is God’s doing.

If Paul were here today exhorting each and every one of us to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, how well do you think we as the body of Christ are conducting ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ? The implication of our conduct being worthy of the gospel of Christ, is that it is consistent with the gospel of Christ. This is a tall order as we all know that we are all sinners, and when we sin, we are not the best ambassadors for the gospel of Christ. So it would be easy for most of us to feel unworthy of demonstrating consistent evidence with our lives, as being worthy of the gospel of Christ. May God have mercy on us all!

Although, that is exactly why it is so wonderful being a member of the Body of Christ, and not just an individual sojourning through life. We need each other, just as a part of the human body can be helped by another part of the body when it is weakened or injured. The overall health of the body of Christ is supported by other members when we fall short of the gospel of Christ. We can nurture each other back to health and be conduits of God’s healing grace, when our conduct is less than worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Our challenge is to avoid measuring ourselves, our church communities, parishes and dioceses with a human measuring stick and rather use a spiritual measure — conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ. Are we being transformed into being more and more spiritual and less and less temporal? Is it evident that we are becoming more and more holy or set apart from the world? These and other spiritually focused questions are good starting points to evaluating if our conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ. In self-reflection and admonition and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should use 1Thessalonians 5:21 as our guide — “Test everything, retain what is good.”

Let us all earnestly seek after our Lord within the Word of God, in order to be united in understanding of conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ. The secular world is aggressively working to transform the Church as well into more of a temporal institution that is aligned with accepted mores of the day. One such example is how the secular world promotes an argument that homosexual activity and so-called same sex marriage is natural, but the word of God provides alternatively a more spiritual perspective:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. (Romans 1:26-27)

Recently some members of the body of Christ, in leadership roles within the body, have been admonished for this type of behavior, which most certainly is not worthy of the gospel of Christ. As the Body of Christ works through these growing pains, it needs to adhere to 1 Thesalonians 5:21 (“test everything, retain what is good”) and use Paul’s exhortation to define what is “good” (“conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ”), then act accordingly.

Whoever acquits the wicked, whoever condemns the just – both are an abomination before the Lord. (Proverbs 17:15)

Some have even referred to the Holy Father as “Satan” for their interpretation of his conduct in relation to some of the current issues rising within the body of Christ. Although, this is not the first time a Pope was referred to as “Satan”; our Lord was the first to do so with Peter. It was the recent gospel reading, Mark 8:27-35 — “At this time he turned around and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan, you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” Even though our Lord referred to Peter as Satan for his conduct, he still declared Peter the rock upon which his Church would be built.

We are all broken people and so much in need of our Lord’s mercy for our own salvation. We are also fortunate to have brothers and sisters in Christ to admonish us in order to keep us on the path to righteousness and serve as conduits of God’s mercy. However, in order for each of us to benefit from this wonderful aspect of the Church, we need to strive each day to be less focused on self and the world and more focused on the Spirit, and how its power can transform what we do each and every day, to make it holy.

The world is obsessed with “self” and how we can make ourselves the best it can possibly be, physically, intellectually, financially and emotionally. There is a large industry of life coaches that can help you transform any of these aspects of your life to be the best it could be and even an over-abundance of self-help material for those desiring to make the transition on their own. On the surface, and evaluating these activities from a human perspective, they are good and meritorious efforts. However, when looked upon with the eyes of the Spirit, it is clear that there is a consistent focus on “self” which always is challenge when striving to live a spiritual life. Mother Teresa use to say that we need to empty ourselves of our “self” in order to make room for the Spirit.

Given the societal acceptance of self-focused programs, it is understandable why there would be acceptance of similar programs within the Church. In a recent Gospel reading at Mass, we hear our Lord telling us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Let’s strive to be the least version of ourselves, to the point of even denying our very “self,” in order to enable us to be more transformed by the Spirit.

All of us have an opportunity to be influenced by the Spirit through our experiences within our parish. If you objectively evaluated your parish today would you say that it is totally abandoned to the Spirit of God, or would you say that it seems to try to model its activity after how a business is run? Does your church set the spiritual standard that sets it apart from temporal approaches in life, and do other temporal organizations seek to model themselves after your Church because of its example? How is our collective conduct as a parish in relation to the gospel of Christ?

Many Catholic parishioners with school age children choose to sacrifice and send their children to a Catholic school for the spiritual aspects incorporated within an education offering. Do our Catholic schools exemplify the spiritual, or are there little noticeable differences between them and a public school, or a private school? Do the secondary activities at a Catholic School (such as sports) focus on the redemptive value of the activity, or are they focused on winning earthly rewards?

We have seen the enemy, and it is us. Every time within our daily Catholic life that we settle for anything less than conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ, we contribute to a Church that is less spiritual and more temporal. Whether layperson, religious, deacon, priest, bishop, cardinal or pope, we are all called to “seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; let them turn to the Lord to find mercy, to our God who is generous in forgiving” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ!