“I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” Philippians 3:8
Another Lent is over. Yet it seems different this year. Normally we spend the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter making a conscious decision to decline something, creating space for another focus to help us grow in our walk with Christ. We learn to say “no”, to experience a bit about what it means to go without – something that in our world many sadly have to do. Then comes the time we can go back to what we have left behind and appreciate it all the more – though sometimes we can find that we really are better off without whatever it was and it never becomes a regular part of our pattern of life again.
But we are living in a time when many things are denied us, and will be for some time to come. There are places we may not go, people we may not see, activities that are closed down. Social distancing is working against so many of our inclinations to be physically close to others, to shake hands, to give hugs. We continue beyond Lent to live with a sense of loss.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi he spoke candidly about all that he had given up to become a follower of Jesus Christ. He lists all the things that might be regarded as credentials for a leading religious figure (to us he may come across as rather full of himself but he is merely stating facts) but goes on to say that he counts them all as “loss”.
Paul is using a term from the world of accountancy. Think of the treasurer presenting the church accounts, for example. On the one side all that has gone out over the year and on the other all that has come in. The big question on everyone’s minds is whether the second is more than the first.
So Paul looks at his life and consciously puts all the things that he might regard as his qualifications in the “loss” column. The only item on the opposite side is “knowing Jesus my Lord”.
It challenges me to wonder whether as we go on living beyond Lent without so many familiar things, I can think and act in the truth that faith in Jesus and his promises is all I really need. I would not want to underestimate the pain for many of what is presently missing from their lives, but at the same time we cannot over-estimate the riches of knowing the one who loved us to death. Beyond price, in fact.
“Lord God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding; pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”