The Bible tells us that we are to live lives that are worthy of the gospel. Specifically, in Philippians 1 Paul tells the church, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” I recently found myself reflecting on that word worthy. How can we actually live in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ? Is that even a possibility?
Usually when we say something is worthy we are talking about merit. When we say an athlete is worthy of the all star team, it means we can look at his statistics, compare him to the other players, and say, “He deserves the spot. He has earned it.” When we say an employee is worthy of a promotion, we mean she has shown the expertise and performed the requirements, and now she deserves to be rewarded with a promotion. She has done what is necessary to be worthy of it. But that’s not the kind of worth Paul has in mind here.
When we speak of worthy we might also refer to paying something back. If this is the case, then to be worthy of the gospel we need to pay God back for his great gift—we should live in a deliberate, sacrificial way so we can make some repayment to him for all his mercy. But that cannot be it either. We know we can’t ever pay him back for all he’s done for us and that our best efforts wouldn’t even get close.
Paul means something else and I think it’s helpful to illustrate it. Over the past few months I’ve visited a bunch of different countries, and wherever I go I keep a little Canadian flag pinned to my bag. That flag is a sign to others of my citizenship. So I need to act in a way that honors rather than dishonors it. I know that if people see that flag as I’m behaving myself well, that honors my country. Or, if people see that flag as I’m doing terrible things, it dishonors my country. That flag calls me to live in a way that is worthy of my citizenship in Canada. And this is essentially what Paul is telling the church. “You are citizens of heaven even as you live here on earth. So be sure to live in such a way that you honor rather than dishonor your citizenship.”
God expects us to live in ways appropriate for citizens of this heavenly nation. We need to live in such a way that we enhance the reputation of the gospel and the Christ of the gospel. We must not do anything that damages its reputation. This means there’s a call on every Christian to acknowledge our heavenly citizenship and then to live in a way that is consistent with it. As we sojourn in this world as citizens of heaven, people around us are paying attention. We’ve got that heaven flag pinned to our bags. In our actions we are either bringing glory to this heavenly nation and its ruler or we are bringing reproach. So the question you and I need to ask day by day is this: Are we living lives worthy of the gospel?