“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 1:6
This was the verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible app at the time of writing this. If you’re like me, upon my first reading of the verse, I immediately wondered, “What, exactly, is the good work God has started in me, and will work towards completion until the day of Christ Jesus?” This got me excited to think about all the good works God is doing in my life and will continue to do “until the day of Christ Jesus.” I was ready to journal so hard about this.
But then I stopped.
It’s so easy to individualize this verse and take it out of its context (which so easily happens for the Verse of the Day provided by the YouVersion Bible App). The purpose of the verse of the day is to be a quick means to reading a verse that can encourage us on the go. Naturally, Philippians 1:6 would be a great verse for just that. It’s really personally fulfilling. It gets us thinking, “God began a good work in ME! And he’s going to carry it out!!” We get excited because we immediately think it means that my desires, my dreams, my aspirations—all the good things in my life—are going to be fulfilled. All the good stuff that happens to our individual lives will be fully carried out by our God who lives to serve our seemingly good-natured, yet subconsciously consumeristic desires.
To be honest, that’s where my mind immediately went when I read this verse. I was thinking, “Lord, how are you working to continue the good in my life? For my job? For the BFFs Church? For my future dreams?” Certainly, there is nothing wrong about praying for God to continue to bless the good things in our individual lives… But what Paul had in mind with these words is not a singular “you,” as if he’s writing a devotional decked out in Christianese language sold at your local Christian book store.
He had in mind a plural “you.”
An “all ya’ll,” so to speak.
So, a more accurate translation could read, “he who began a good work in ALL YA’LL;” a good work in the collective, Philippian church body.
Read in that light, this passage immediately becomes less attractive, doesn’t it? It almost becomes more ambiguous. “How do we apply this verse to our lives if it’s meant for the collective church, not the individual church attendee?” we may ask.
The reason it’s not as attractive, and is rather ambiguous, is because we’re socialized to see church as another individualistic means for satisfying our needs. We can only fully appreciate this verse in its context when we fully appreciate the need to belong in a church community from a collectivist worldview.
We’re so thrilled when we hear about God doing a good work in us individually… but are we just as thrilled when he does a good work in us corporately? Are we just as apt to celebrate as a body when he works through the entire church as he does in our individual lives?
The answer to that tendency boils down to our willingness to value community over individuality.
So here’s a crazy question. Is it possible for the Spirit of God to lead a movement through his Church that can transform our individualist culture into a collectivist culture? Where our go-to interpretive lens for Philippians 1:6 isn’t a singular “you,” but a plural “you?”
This is what the BFFs Church dreams to see for our nation.