27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear … (Philippians 1).
Part of the wonder of the gospel is its ability to conform its followers to truth. Indeed, this is a true test to see if someone is really in the faith: their faith is not dependent upon a leader — indeed, their faith is not in any human leader at all, but only in Jesus Christ. It is important to see that Paul is not threatening them here. He’s not saying, “You better be acting right when I get there!” No, he’s saying, “I’m confident that from hundreds of miles away I’m going to be hearing good things about you!”
All of us recall times when a teacher left the classroom and chaos ensued. And we also noted how if the teacher was gone long enough, even some of the “better” students (maybe some of us?) would be drawn into the tumult. Sometimes the teacher left the classroom even as a “test” to see how mature the classroom was.
Now, on a historical note, the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that this country did not need a tyrant or a king to keep the people in line. They believed in an independent citizenry, not dependent subjects. One of these founders, James Madison, wrote: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Lord, we thank You for this glorious gospel working within our hearts to keep us in line. Help us This Day to exhibit gospel morality wherever we go. Amen.