14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life...
Nothing delights God more than to look at his children and see purity of heart, purity in our actions, and purity in our words. Some might think of this as being "blameless". A true servant will never hesitate to put his heart into his service. No child of God should think that this walk we call Christianity will require anything less.
Paul's emphasis on being "one in spirit" is foundational to impacting the world with our testimony. Unity - being able to love one another - not for what the other can do for you, but because there is a heart determined to live in love with the other, is not the easiest challenge. When we finally understand the purpose God has for us, we understand the purpose of aligning with others that will spur us on to fulfill that purpose.
The idea of living clean, innocent lives seems far-fetched in this perverse world. We are surrounded by all kinds of evil - we don't have to look far to be inundated with reports of wars, murders, senseless crimes of passion, etc. The nature and attitude of Christ while he walked this earth was to confront these things head on. He did not turn his back to the hurting - he embraced them. We need to be open to being a light without being consumed by the darkness.
The key is "connection" - first with God, then with others who are in love with Jesus. This connection with his Father gave him the ability to live obediently - to draw from the resources God provides. We need to learn to "tap our resources" as frequently as he did. As our example, he modeled the behavior of a servant, a child who relies upon his father, and as a brother who spurs another on to holy living.
Two things that God explains through Paul that will set us out as unique from this world - a lack of complaining and the purposeful refusal to enter into arguments. Complaining is important to maintaining unity because whenever we complain, we are saying that we want the attention of others to be on us. It uses energy that we don't have at our disposal to be frivolously wasted. The capping effect of complaining is that it usually ends in the destruction (the tearing down or apart) of someone else's reputation.
Not arguing is important because of how arguments usually end - somebody gets hurt. Our outbursts, however infrequent they may be, are really because we want to be right (we want to win). It is a hard thing to lay down our right to be right! Usually, in the argument, one may think they have won, but in actuality, no one really wins when the means to "winning" was in arguing. The need to win is selfish - God's desire is unity and unity is founded on being able to lay down our self.
The last thought I have today is the final words of this passage: Hold firmly to the word of life. The spirit of unity is often exposed in the word of God. We need to get it into us, allowing it to affect our desire to complain, our need to argue, and are desire to be noticed first. As we do, unity is possible. Apart from the word of God acting in our lives, we remain the same self-directed, self-centered individuals. Unity is only possible in submission and obedience to the principles taught in scripture. I understand the word of God best when I see it modeled - therefore, I need others around me that also want the word to deeply affect their lives. As I see the word modeled, I am able to imagine it possible in my life, as well. We fulfill the purpose of "spurring one another on" in this faith walk! Live well!