Only be good citizens of Messiah’s Joyful News, so that, whether I come and see you, or hear about you when I’m absent, I’ll know that you’re taking a stand in the one spirit, fighting singlemindedly, shoulder to shoulder, for trust in the Joyful News.
And don’t be spooked by your opponents, for whom this issue is a pointer to their destruction, but for you a pointer to your rescue – it’s God’s doing!
For he has given you the honour of not only trusting in Messiah but suffering for him as well, since you are having the same battle as you saw me fight, and now hear that I am fighting still.
The verb I’ve translated as “be … citizens” is politeuesthe in Greek which is surely more than the usual translations “manner of life…behaviour…..actions etc.” precisely in its political root. Archbishop Romero, who is going to be made a saint of the Church was a good citizen of the Joyful News, while being murdered as a bad citizen of a vicious dictatorship. Paul, who may have been a Roman citizen, saw the Assemblies of Jesus as “citizens of heaven.”
I think the language Paul uses here has an implicit military metaphor running through it, hence my translation. His suffering for Messiah is no mere passive endurance, it is taking the fight to the enemy, by revealing the power of Jesus Messiah working in him and the Assemblies. Paul’s confidence in the unity of believers in Jesus Messiah is also evident here. It is not a mystical state but rather the active sharing of soul with soul, mind with mind, body with body which he otherwise describes as koinonia (shared life) or agape ( love). In contrast to the worldly competition for status and battles for supremacy, the Christian assemblies battle along with Paul for trust in the Joyful News of God’s rescue of humanity, which sets people free from competitive aggression, and allows them to become slaves of one another. In the next section of the letter we shall see how Paul makes Jesus the model of this downward mobility.
The translation “spooked” comes from discovering that the Greek verb is especially used of scaring horses. Opposition and consequent suffering, according to Paul, is to be taken as evidence that we have been rescued by God and given the honour of suffering for Jesus. The event of Jesus’ crucifixion is central for Paul especially as it is extended into the lives of the believing community. Again this is not mysticism but the practical effect of trust in the crucified Messiah.