In versus From

Prepositions are easy to jump over quickly and take for granted, but sometimes they can make a big difference in meaning. In his good-bye to the congregation at Philippi, Paul writes, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9, NRSV). Embedded in the middle is a preposition, but it may not be the one you expected–or even the one your brain processed as you read quickly. Paul wants them to keep on doing the things they have learned, received, heard, and seen in him–not from him.

No doubt Paul cared greatly about the things they learned, received, hear, and saw from him. That’s why he took the time to teach them, to preach to them, to organize the church, to train them, and to write to them when the church had questions and issues. However, it seems like he also knew that ultimately the knowledge and practical tips they got from him weren’t the most important things. What they received from him only mattered because of what was in him–the Holy Spirit.

As he bids them farewell, not knowing if he would ever visit or write to them again, he wanted to ensure that they didn’t do what so many churches do–cement into permanent place the way things have always been done. Rather, he wanted them to keep on doing what he had tried to model in being open to and following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

As we preach, teach, train, and lead, we should pour time and effort into the information and techniques and patterns that we pass onto our people. The things they receive from us should be accurate, engaging, and should help them become and/or make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. However, what matters the most is what they see in us. When times and needs change, it will be a better testament to our teaching and leadership if they follow the example of going where God calls us.

Lectionary Connections: Year A Proper 23, Year C Thanksgiving Day, Year C Canadian Thanksgiving

Image by Flickr user Jon Bunting. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from Original.

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