September 25

Philippians 2:4-13

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” vs. 12 

These words from Paul to the Philippians have been much debated through the centuries. If salvation is by grace and a gift from God, what might it mean for them to “work out (their) own salvation with fear and trembling?” Obviously reactions to that question have been legion. In fact, Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, known as the Father of Existentialism, titled one of his major works, Fear and Trembling, a book in which he worked out his perspectives on Paul’s imperative. Understanding Kierkegaard’s thesis might be difficult for most people, but Paul’s instructions do deserve careful reflection. It is true that all have been gifted with salvation, but our journey toward salvation is very much an individual matter. And we won’t know where we are going until we get there, sometimes after a lifetime of painful struggle. In other words, following Jesus requires action–it’s not a passive enterprise. Kierkegaard wrote, “If anyone on the verge of action should judge herself according to the outcome she would never begin.” The Philippians didn’t have Paul around to tell them what to do–each of them had to figure it out. And so it goes with life–we’re all just “figuring it out,” and we do it with fear and trembling. And the good news is, at the end we will have our salvation!

Thought for the Day: What do I know now that I wish I’d known long ago?

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