If you are a Christian, I bet you know that we have been called to be different than the world around us. We are called to be a light in the darkness, showing people Jesus. But have you ever thought about how you actually live that out? Did you know that Paul calls us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing, 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” in Philippians 2:14-15? Did he really say, “without complaining”?! Uh oh.
Other translations use “murmuring” or “grumbling” in the place of “complaining,” but the concept is the same. I have to confess that I am terrible at this. I try not to complain to other people, but my family hears way more than they should. Driving in the car, getting back into the car after dealing with people, the list goes on. We try to pass it off as “blowing off steam” or “getting things off our chests.” But why am I complaining in the first place? I think, in the majority of the situations, I am complaining because I feel like I could do it better, faster, or safer. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. What’s the point of complaining or grumbling?
What would happen if we didn’t complain? Imagine yourself in the grocery store and the person in front of you at the “15 or less” lane has at least 25 things. Maybe they look at you sheepishly, maybe they ignore you and the person behind you complains loudly. How are we called to react? How do you think Jesus would react? If the person looks at you sheepishly, what if you responded with a huge smile (your eyes will show it, even if they can’t see it under your mask) and said, “Don’t worry about it.” What if that was exactly what that person needed to make their day better? What do our reactions tell the people around us? Do we look like grumpy people or are we shining Jesus’ love so brightly people can’t help but wonder what is different about us?
The Message translates verse 15 like this, “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society.” A breath of fresh air. Have you ever described someone like that? I sure would like to be that to the people around me, especially right now in the middle of the Presidential race and this pandemic. That’s what we need. The world needs people who are encouraging and helpful, not divisive and demanding.
What would happen if we stopped complaining and grumbling right now? What if we looked for the good, instead of demanding things go our way? Will you try it with me? With God’s help, let’s be breaths of fresh air and shine like bright lights in this dark world.
Philippians 2:14-16 "Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing." (MSG)