Philippians: joy and suffering

Suffering, Sacrifice, Humility, Joy, Koinonia, Obedience, Rejoicing, Opposition, Death, Life, Resistance, Vindication...
We've been discussing the book of Philippians with the Youth Group and these are all the words that are bubbling up in our conversations about the text. These expressions seem to be swimming through the letter. Paul is writing from prison (something we should keep in mind the entire time we read the text) and he is calling the church to a life of sacrifice and suffering. He is calling them to share together in one mind and work together toward the kind of service Jesus lived out. He even considers suffering a privilege... Privilege? For Paul, suffering is all about Koinonia (fellowship, solidarity) with Jesus in his suffering and with neighbors, particularly neighbors on the under-side of society. As strong as the theme of suffering is throughout this letter Joy bubbles up as well, Joy along with vindication. All these words find themselves together here in this text.

Christianity is sometimes difficult to understand because it is filled with paradox. On one hand, we can say that the Christian life is a life of suffering and sacrifice, and we'd be right in saying this. On the other had, we can say that the Christian life is a life of celebration and resurrection, and it truly is. What Philippians might be teaching us, what Paul might be drawing and calling us toward is a place where all the tensions and all the paradox of real life come together. We tend to take terms like "suffering" and "joy" and shrink-wrap them so they cannot touch, so they're mutually exclusive and separated. Philippians defies our temptation and allows them to boil in the same pot. The Christian life is a life where all the experiences of human life crash into each other and produce something undeniably good. True Christianity is where crucifixion and resurrection kiss.