Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.
Early Christianity as a movement was threatened by division from theological debaters from within and adversarial philosophers from without. Paul’s solution: Let the way you live your life be your strongest answer. The Greek word he uses for “manner of life” is politeuesthe, which means “to be a citizen.” The implication is that we must live in a way that we are evidently citizens of heaven at the same time we are citizens on earth. We must evidence our loyalty to the King of kings as well as to our earthly government. Daniel Webster was onto something when he said, “Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens”
Paul knew the strongest argument was not argument at all, but a life well lived. What is most convincing and most attractive to our opponents is living our life with others in a way that extends heaven and builds up earth. We are to build, as Augustine famously wrote in The City of God, a community that seeks justice (sharing those things necessary to live on earth) in order to reflect the eternal city of which we are citizens.
I once asked Michelle Akers, former American soccer player, who starred in the historic 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup victories by the United States, what was the secret of winning. Her answer was, “Don’t plan or play in a way that is mainly a reaction to your opponent. Play your game and let them defend against you.” Our contest now is to be more like Jesus together. And as Anne Frank so aptly put it, “How great that nobody needs wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!”
Lord, let me, with others, live like Jesus. Let my example precede my advocacy.