As I was perusing Philippians, I came across several verses which offered a surprising new viewpoint for me. The verses Philippians 1:12-18 read as such: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
The tone of these verses seemed to be entirely at odds with the teachings and messages of Jesus and his disciples which had been conveyed to us thus far. It seems to me that much of the transferral and spread of the message of Jesus relies on the enthusiasm and conviction of the disciples and followers who work to share the message with others; any perceived insincerity or praise-seeking could have been a deterrent to potential converts. Although it warns against vanity or seeking praise or glory for one’s self, it still advocates that the message can be effectively spread even through these less devout individuals. To me, this struck an interesting tone that was different from what I had perceived before in the message.
Not only do those aforementioned individuals preach out of envy or a desire for their own praise, some of them actually do it to make Paul’s imprisonment more difficult. Considering Paul was one of Jesus’ beloved disciples, anyone seeking to worsen his condition seems like they would firmly fall outside of the category of someone who should be spreading those same teachings of Jesus. Although Jesus himself said that his disciples would suffer for following him and spreading his message, he never made claims that those who enabled that suffering would also be his own followers.
So those verses struck me as having a tone very different from what we’ve seen throughout the other books and teachings of the Bible. Indeed, it seems to be almost in opposition to the tone of many of the teachings in the New Testament, including Colossians 3:8-10: “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” This seems to be somewhat contradictory, because true followers should have renounced practices such as these, so how could they spread the teachings out of selfish ambition or envy without going back on the very tenets they claim to follow?
To me, this seemed to offer a more intriguing point of view in which the ends seem to justify the means. It raised an interesting question in my mind: is the message more important, or the sentiment behind it and the actions that follow it? It offered an interesting dichotomy in the typical, established viewpoint, which vouched for spreading the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God with sincerity and devotion.