This is a guest post from Marco Attia, an Orthodox Christian blogger from Melbourne, Australia whose goal in writing is to "inspire you to live a life of faith, purpose and spiritual growth”. You can read more of Marco's work on his blog, Spiritually Grounded, or by following him on Twitter or Facebook. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
We’ve all heard St Paul’s famous words in Philippians 1:21 in which he boldly declares: "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Powerful words aren’t they!? But have you ever stopped to think about the implications of such words? After all this isn’t just catchy slogan found on printed mugs and tees for the hipster Christian to wear loud and proud – are they? Certainly not!
These powerful words could have a huge impact on our lives, and have the potential to turn the world upside down if we are to take them more seriously.
Life is Christ
What’s interesting is that Paul did not write these words in an attempt to be an eloquent writer, nor was he anticipating his message to make the final cut of the New Testament. Rather he meant every word he penned because his letter to the Philippians was written as he was awaiting his imminent fate… death. More so, Paul wrote to the Philippian community to strengthen them through their own struggles and persecution. So for Paul dying was imminent and likely, and would finally unite him with His beloved Lord, but if he were to go on living, then his Life is grounded in Christ. Either way, Paul’s life is Christ’s.
Grounded in Christ
But what does being grounded in Christ look like? The answer to that is apparent when we look at Christ’s earthly ministry. When we examine how Christ lived His life, we quickly come to realize that St Paul is referring to Christ's love. The Lord taught in love, lived in love, rebuked in love and ultimately died in love. Ultimately, through His incarnation, Christ showed us who God is...And God is LOVE!
Christ did all this, in love, for you and I!
It’s all about Love
The fundamentals of the faith and of all Orthodox theology can be summed up in only three words… God is LOVE. The Gospel is a message of Love. The Holy Trinity is a communion of love between three persons of one divine essence. And because man is created in the image and likeness of God, we are created to share and live in love. It is therefore love that makes us Christ-like, the more I love, the more I imitate the Lord who is Love.
Love in Action
Unfortunately, today’s society has greatly skewed our understanding of love. We have been led to believe that love is that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you meet that nice girl on the train, or the sensation you feel upon receiving your brand new iPhone X. But this is far from the truth, this is not love!
Love is an action not an emotion. Paul shows us precisely what love is by personifying it for us in 1 Corinthians 13. If love were a person, they would be characterized by the following traits.
In a nutshell, love gives of itself! Love is sacrificial. So much so that the Lord Himself testifies that ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’ – John 15:13. And this is precisely what Christ did for us, His love was ultimately manifested by his sacrifice on the Cross.
Sacrifice is the Language of Love
So we too in order to manifest our love for God and for others must learn to speak the language of love – sacrifice! And this is no easy feat. Love is challenging because it requires that we put to death something that means so much to us…our ego.
This idea has become so foreign to us due to the influence of the secular society in which we live. We live in a self-absorbed culture, where we are told to ‘look out for number 1’, and phrases such as ‘self-image’, ‘self-esteem’, and ‘self-respect’ show just how ‘self-ish’ we are becoming.
We have become the ‘selfie’ generation, and that makes it hard to look beyond ourselves. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with looking out for ourselves, there are countless opportunities to experience love that is out of this world when we lay down our ego for God and for others.
It is precisely the giving of ourselves that leads us to experience the insurmountable joy that St Paul alludes to when he affirms: ‘Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice…’ - Philippians 2:17-18.
Do you want to be glad and rejoice? You can do so through your good works and acts of kindness towards others. And through the sacrifices you make for the sake of God and those around you. You can truly light up the world by living for others, and that’s what it means to live for Christ.