To Live is Christ and To Die is Gain: Exploring Suffering in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

to live is Christ and to die is gain

Paul’s statement that ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain’ is one of the boldest sentences in Scripture.

As Christians, it’s a passage that we often quote and that we readily intellectually assent to; however, most of us—if honest—sense that we are not really living it the way that Paul was. Our lives (time, money, passion) are not wholly given over to serving; and we do not face death fearlessly, longing for union with God.

I’ve wanted to really understand these words. And as someone who now has an illness, I feel it’s imperative.

This statement of Paul is found in the book of Philippians, which though a short letter, has some of the most recognized and poetic passages in the Bible. And much to my surprise, when I took a deeper look, I found that this book is all about suffering.

So why does Paul write an entire letter addressing suffering?

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All is ‘Hevel’: Finding Meaning in Ecclesiastes (Koheleth)

Ecclesiastes - hevel - vapor

Many great thinkers have reported benefiting considerably from the book of Ecclesiastes (or ‘Koheleth,’ as it’s known in Hebrew). The word ‘Koheleth’ directly translates as the assembler of the people and true to its title, the book states, for these people, the author’s conclusions of his long and fully-lived life.

Ecclesiastes is both an incredibly easy book to synthesize (its leading refrain—that all is ‘hevel’ or vapor/meaningless—is repeated throughout) and a great challenge to explain (it’s nihilism is found essentially nowhere else in the Bible).

Personally, I’ve not benefited much from the wisdom literature of the Scriptures, but I think that is because it is so challenging to understand. Yet, on my most recent read-through of Ecclesiastes it made sense like never before. I hope, perhaps, I am learning what Solomon learned without the painful end that he experienced.

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Forgiven But Still Crippled: A Commentary on Luke 5:20-24

Forgiven Yet Still Crippled: Luke Chapter 5 Commentary

I just noticed something fascinating about the story in Luke chapter 5 (see text at bottom of article) where Jesus heals the paralyzed man who is lowered down into the busy room through the roof.

In many of the miracles that Jesus’ performs, he enacts physical and spiritual healing at the same time. Or occasionally he grants physical healing first, hoping to prompt a subsequent spiritual awakening by the recipient, such as in the story of the blind man healed at the Pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5.

But this story is different.

Here, Jesus forgives the man first. And it’s only after that that Jesus then heals the man’s legs.

What this text subtly indicates is actually quite fascinating: our spiritual healing is not connected with our physical health.

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Jesus the Iconoclast: Understanding the Reading of the Isaiah Scroll (Luke 4:16-30)

Jesus as the great iconoclast seems to be a recurring theme recently in passages I have read.

I’ve always been perplexed by the story in Luke’s gospel where Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll and the members of the synagogue then attempt to throw him off a cliff for it.

Interestingly, as I was reading through Luke and stopping to focus on this story, I concurrently came to a chapter in Kenneth Bailey’s brilliant book, ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, that deals with this confusing portion of text.

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