TAKING CHRIST AS OUR FORBEARANCE
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your forbearance be known to all men.” This means that you should be found in forbearance by all the saints. The word forbearance is difficult to explain completely. Many may define forbearance as patience or long-suffering. However, forbearance is more than patience or long-suffering. It is reasonableness, considerateness, and consideration in dealing with others, without strictness of legal right. First, if we would be forbearing, we must be reasonable and fair. We must do things in a reasonable and fair way. Second, we have to consider others. To be forbearing is to consider how others will be affected by what we do or say. We should consider whether or not our words would damage people. We have to be very considerate in dealing with others, avoiding strictness.
The Chinese translation of Philippians uses a word for forbearance which means to fit in with another’s situation. When we lack forbearance, we are unable to fit in with another’s situation. Brothers or sisters may be living together in an apartment in a very pleasant way. When another brother or sister comes in who lacks forbearance, trouble may be stirred up, destroying the peaceful situation. But when a brother or sister who is full of forbearance comes into a situation in which brothers or sisters are having problems, he or she becomes a peacemaker. Whatever that brother or sister says or does keeps everyone comfortable. Everyone is calmed down, and everyone feels that everything is all right in the apartment.
Although every verse of Philippians 4 mentions a new item concerning the experience of Christ, all of these items are related to one another. A proper Christian life of living and magnifying Christ will not dissent with others, will always rejoice, will always forbear, and will have no anxiety (v. 6). This kind of life enjoys the peace of God (v. 7).
THE EXPRESSION OF THE LIFE THAT LIVES CHRIST
In Philippians 4:8 Paul presents six items which express the life that lives Christ. This verse says, “For the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is righteous, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is well-spoken of.…” These items form three pairs. The first pair is true and honorable. The second pair is righteous and pure. The third pair is lovely and well-spoken of. Verse 8 concludes with two matters: “If there is any virtue and if any praise, take account of these things.” All of these items are very human. Some saints are very desirous to live Christ but in a way that is not very human. These six items with two concluding matters describe how human we should be in living Christ. We should be true, without any pretense or falsehood. We also should be honorable, which means that we are people who invite honor, regard, and respect from others. As those who live Christ, we should be righteous before God and men, and we should also be pure. To be righteous is to be right without; to be pure is to be single in our intention and motive within. We must be right without and pure within. We should also be lovely and well-spoken of. To be lovely is to be lovable, agreeable, and endearing. To be well-spoken of is to be of good repute, renowned, attractive, winning, gracious, and even charming.
Although all of the foregoing items are human virtues, we must realize that these human virtues are the vessel created by God to contain His attributes. A glove is made in the image and likeness of a hand as a container for the hand with its fingers. Without the hand with its fingers, the glove is empty. In the same way, we were made in God’s image and likeness. He is the true God, and He has made us in a way that we can contain Him. God is true, and man can also be true. God is honorable, and God also made man with honor. The items in Philippians 4:8 are not only the virtues of man, but also the attributes of God.
We are vessels made to contain God for His expression, so we have the outward form of these attributes but not their reality. When we live Christ, who is the embodiment of God with all the attributes of God, He fills up all of our empty virtues. God’s attributes then become our virtues. Thus, living Christ makes us very human. We should not only be spiritual and heavenly but also be true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, and well-spoken of. These human virtues with the divine attributes are the detailed expression of the Christ we live and magnify. If we are not lovely and honorable, we are not expressing Christ. If we do not live an honorable life, we are not living Christ. If we live and magnify Christ, we will surely live an honorable life.
THE WAY TO LIVE CHRIST
The way for us to live Christ with all of these human virtues with the divine attributes is found in verse 13, which says, “I can do all things in Him who empowers me.” We can be true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, and well-spoken of in Christ, the One who empowers us. In Christ, the One we live, we can do all things.
TAKING CHRIST AS OUR SECRET
The Christ we live is not only our power but also our secret. Philippians 4:12 says, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to be in want.” “To abound” is to be rich, and “to be abased” is to be poor. Paul knew how to handle both poverty and abundance. Poverty would not defeat him, and riches would not spoil him. “To be filled” means to be rich with more than enough to eat, and “to hunger” means to be poor, to lack, to suffer privation with not enough to eat. Paul had learned the secret both of being rich and of being poor.
The book of Philippians ends with a life not dissenting with others, full of forbearance, without anxiety, and full of human virtues. Philippians ends with a person who is so true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, and well-spoken of. Such a person is full of human virtues with the divine attributes as their contents to express Christ in a human way. We also should be such persons. The secret of such a life is Christ, the One who empowers us. To live and magnify Christ, having the righteousness of God based upon faith, is our salvation.
(The Experience and Growth in Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)