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Some Epistles of Paul: Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica
Where in the World are Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica?
The Courage to Believe in Humility and Kindness
When Saint Paul was in chains, under Palace guard in Rome, he admitted to the Christian community in Philippi that there were times he longed for death so he’d be with God. But at other times he was happy that his chains inspired others to preach.
A big believer in humility, Paul said that it would be best to regard other people as superior to oneself. Maybe he was advising the Philippians that it would be better to err in the direction of subservience, rather than in the opposite direction of arrogance.
In the spirit of offering sound advice, he told the Philippians always to be considerate of others, reminding them of Jesus’ example that went to the extreme of offering His life so that He would be remembered for His gift to mankind—the message from God that forgiveness of sins truly is an option that's always available.
Paul warned against placing too much importance on worldly achievements and pleasures, which he considered to amount to nothing compared to the value in having faith in Jesus. An example of this principle, if taken literally, might mean that a thrill in winning a million dollars at a slot machine really isn't anything compared to the greater importance of one simple decision, made in the privacy of someone’s mind, to place all his or her trust in the will of God.
In closing his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul told them to meditate on things that are good, while trying to keep thoughts of evil things out of their minds.
Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Colossae starts by thanking God for giving to humanity a Man, Jesus, who guided people through life and encouraged them so as not to despair, telling them God wanted them to know that the opportunity for forgiveness of sins would be a bonus for those who had faith in God.
Paul reminded the Colossians not to think in terms of worldly values, but always to remember the spiritual values that Jesus taught. Think of things “above” with God, Paul advised; never mind too much about this world and this temporary human life.
For people in power and leadership roles, Saint Paul cautioned that it would be wise for them to show kindness toward the people over whom they exercised authority, because worldly leaders also have a Master in heaven.
Saint Paul finished his letter to the Colossians by telling them he was writing the letter from prison, where he and other Christian Jews were in custody for preaching about Jesus.
Paul wrote two letters to his fellow Christians in Thessalonica. In the first, he advised them to continue to turn away from any idols traditionally worshipped by many Gentiles (non-Jews), and instead to direct their attention toward the living and true God, and his son Jesus. He told the Thessalonians how happy he was that they had come to believe in God and Jesus, based on Paul’s preaching.
He told them that if they could show love toward everyone, their hearts would be blameless before God. He reminded them to have hope in being with God in heaven after their human lives were finished. Those people who have faith, said Saint Paul, live in the light. But others lived in the darkness of night.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul made it clear that he believed in a vengeful God who could take vengeance against non-believers and those who didn’t obey Jesus’ gospel. Paul believed strongly in the existence of an evil spirit in the world, capable of inspiring the lives of people who did not have faith in God or Jesus.
Saint Paul closed his writings to the Thessalonians by saying they should avoid busybodies who don’t work and are disorderly, but that such people should not be considered enemies. Instead, they should be admonished as brothers.
In the letters of Saint Paul there’s a continuing thread of praise for thoughts, words, and acts of kindness, as opposed to achievements of self-aggrandizement and material, worldly possessions. It seems strange that two thousand years ago these competing values were debated as much as they are today.
Saint Paul was convinced of the divinity of Jesus due to an apparition in which Jesus spoke to Paul. Conversations with apostles and other disciples who witnessed miracles performed by Jesus and knew Him personally also reinforced Paul’s certainty.
However, because not everyone is convinced of Jesus’ divinity or even His really having lived, and because some people doubt the existence of any God at all, as Someone to whom we can pray for help, it’s only fair to respect the views of those who demand more proof before they’ll place confidence in the disciples' writings from two thousand years ago. The apostle Thomas, who spent a lot of time with Jesus, truly doubted that He had come back to life after His crucifixion.
In a broad sense, just about everyone seems to agree that kindness and consideration are noble traits. Therefore, it's hard to dispute the basic core of Saint Paul's advice on living.
Whether taken with a grain of salt, or with an absolute zeal of certainty, Saint Paul’s letters at least point in the right direction and are good philosophies for people to follow.
The Philippian, Colossian, and Thessalonian letters are a few short examples of the fifteen, or possibly more, letters written by Saint Paul, the highly educated Jewish Pharisee, famous for bringing Christianity to Jews and non-Jews throughout the area now known as the Middle East and eastern Europe.
The question I keep pondering is why people like Paul and other disciples would allow themselves to go all the way to being persecuted and executed for preaching a new slant on religion, called Christianity, if this were only a fictional tale that someone made up?
The point of Saint Paul often is humility as opposed to egotistical pride. Implicit in humility is the willingness to confess one's errors.
People who act arrogant and certain of everything often lack humility and want to appear perfectly superior.
In real life history, we are reminded of the man who commanded the allied forces in World War Two on the day of the Normandy Invasion, portrayed graphically in the movie "Saving Private Ryan." Thousands of lives were lost, but Dwight D. Eisenhower took the responsibility. Later, he was quoted as having written, "Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends."
It is ironic that people who are loved and exalted must begin first with a foundation of sincere humility.
Are Humility and Kindness "Catchy"?
The Attractiveness of Virtue
What is considered virtuous? This may be a matter of opinion for sure, but philosophers through the ages have tried to pinpoint certain values that are good, not bad, for the individual psychology and also for society as a whole.
The ancient Greeks, for example, cited prudence, justice, temperance, and courage as being among the most commendable attributes someone could possess. Saint Paul later emphasized faith, hope and charity.
Life is often seen as a game in which good traits are pitted against bad in a contest. Some virtues are practical things that help people in everyday life, such as patience, but others are things that are particularly important to religious people, such as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, and humility.
In modern day living, these virtues all are attractive and seriously admired. Heroes in movies personify virtues such as these. Virtues are attractive, whereas vices are ugly. The virtuous person will avoid sloth and gluttony, for example, and the other things that the religious people call sins.
Surely each person passes through phases in life during which blame can't be assigned easily. For example, infants are forgiven easily. However, in adulthood, the practice of virtue becomes more of a social obligation. Those who fall into excessive self-indulgence are condemned, while people who avoid that and practice virtue are admired.