Do you usually write or speak when you communicate with another person? With rapid advances in technology and widespread use of social media, you probably switch back and forth between those two methods more than you realize. You write an email or text. You send a voice message or video. You write something to post on a social media platform. You comment on a friend’s picture online. You talk to your family. You give a presentation at work. Back and forth, back and forth. We are constantly communicating and doing it in so many ways simultaneously.
Communication Changes Quickly
When I was born, the fastest way to share a picture with my grandparents when I arrived was to fax them. When my own children were born (fast forward a few decades), I was on a video call with my parents within the hour for them to see their new grandbaby.
I always marvel at the introductions to the books of the New Testament that were originally written as letters shared from one church to the next. Communication in that time period certainly operated at a much slower pace than we are accustomed to today. News was delivered by some combination of foot travel, face-to-face dialogue, and written letters.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be exposed to less communication or at a slower pace. I know that I am quick to take for granted the ease and speed at which I am able to communicate, whether written or spoken. Even the time it takes between when I am writing this post and when you are reading it is light-years faster than what the Early Church experienced as they waited for teaching and encouragement to come from writers like Paul.
Paul’s Letter to Christians in Philippi
Paul communicated about God faithfully and consistently despite the many trials and setbacks he faced in his ministry. He likely had no idea that the words he crafted would be read over and over again by Christians for centuries to come. What I love most about his writing is that he consistently points his readers to live their lives with a pattern of humility and love.
In Philippians 2, he especially gives a lot of attention to humility and love as the basis of how to live a Christian life:
Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:2–3)In Paul’s writing, I think we find excellent reminders (and admonitions) for our own communication each day. Online, in person, written, or spoken— all our communication has the potential to reflect the humility and love of Christ.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing.(Philippians 2:14)
Those two teachings alone can completely shift the way we approach communicating with others.
Isn’t it interesting that even though they had slower communication than we do (even slower than our own snail mail), Paul was addressing some of the same problems that we experience? Paul didn’t know the future of FaceTime, the instant connectivity of Zoom Rooms, or the timeliness of a tweet, but he still urged followers of Jesus to communicate with grace.
How might Paul’s words change the words you choose to use today? Whether you are in a Zoom Room or having an in-person discussion, may you remember Philippians 2 in all that you say and do.
This month we are going to take a deeper dive into Paul’s words to those Christians living in Philippi. Download the August Everyday Faith calendar to read through Philippians 2.