Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him – Philippians 3:4-9a.
Yesterday, I had talked about the phrase “making violent love” as being a phrase used by Jane Austen. The phrase, back in her time, had nothing at all to do with physical relations. Instead, the phrase meant to make a declaration of love without regards to public decorum or social status. I shared how Jesus, Himself, had no regard for public decorum (an example is where He washes the feet of His disciples) and His social status (the Prince of Heaven came as a servant rather than a king).
How do we respond to that kind of overwhelming love? Paul gives his response to Jesus’ overwhelming act of love (Philippians 2:1-11) in chapter 3.
Paul had a lot going on for him. It is evident that in his former life as Saul, he had a good deal of authority (Acts chapters 6 and 7). He was from the tribe of Benjamin which had a history of mighty warriors. In a time where many of the Jews were educated in the Aramaic language, Saul was educated in Hebrew. He was a Pharisee, one of those guys who followed the law to an extreme. He followed the law according to the Pharisees even to a degree that would probably make other Pharisees look like criminals.
His credentials could be compared to having a Masters of Language from Oxford and a Doctorate in Law from Georgetown. Yet, Paul counted all of that as loss. Knowing Jesus was of greater value to him than anything, even his social status.
Here’s a picture for you, imagine a half eaten, rotted carcass of a cow covered in its own dung. That’s not a pretty picture, and I’m sorry if I’ve upset your stomach a little; but the word that Paul used that is translated as rubbish conveys that exact meaning (1). All of Paul’s accomplishments, all that he had attained and he regarded it as a half eaten rotted carcass of a cow covered in its own dung in comparison to knowing Jesus.
In America, we tend to find our identities in our education, our possessions, our jobs, etc… But what are those things compared to knowing Jesus and knowing that you will be found in Him?
(1) Hawthorne, Gerald F. Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary series. Waco: Word Books, 1983.