Are you an enemy of the Cross? – Friday, 31st Week in ordinary time – Philippians 3:17-4:1
In Chapter 3: 1 Paul was winding down his letter when news came to him of the Judaizers who were instigating the Philippians and disturbing the faith. Paul never suffered fools easily and lashes out at them calling them ‘dogs’ and ‘mutilators of the flesh.’ It is to this end that he calls the Philippians to, “join in imitating him.”
On the face of things, that statement sounds a bit over the top. Paul who spoke of humility in Chapter two now seems to be a bit egoistical. But that’s not the case really. In the face of false teachers Paul was saying look for a good example. It is not that Paul is without sin for he has even told us in his epistles of a ‘thorn in his side.’ What that is, we will never know but Paul admits to his failings. Here he becomes a concrete example to the congregation and not only him, he points to others in the community when he says, “and mark those who so live,” by the good example.
While Paul presents himself and members of the community as good examples to follow there were also the bad examples. Hurdles to the mission are a given but Paul also faces the reality of the ‘enemies of the cross’ (verse18). Note that Paul is specific when he says these enemies are “many.” A reality that exists today too.
At the time of Paul, the enemies of the cross were the adversaries who are preaching circumcision as means of salvation. They denied the efficacy of Christ’s costly sacrifice on the cross. They could have also been Gnostics who tried to intellectualize Christianity and make it into a philosophy. Paul had to contend with people like this in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and Romans 6, who thought that salvation comes without repentance and conversion, and who thought that as long as your soul was saved, it didn’t matter what you did with your body.
Verse 18 is very poignant. We are told that “Paul weeps for these enemies of Christ.” Here is a man who never wept through his many and varied sufferings. He weeps for the souls of those who have rejected the message of Christ or who have distorted the truth of the Gospel. These enemies of Christ are doomed to destruction.