Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Things That Matter

“That you may approve the things that are excellent …” 
—Philippians 1:10

The Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day spoke of the diapheron—“the things that matter.” The diapheron, in classical ethics, were those subtle aspects of character that set one person apart from others—what one did, but also a special way of doing it. Paul probably had this distinction in mind when he wrote of “things that are excellent,” or literally, “things that matter” (ta diapheronta).

The “things that matter” have to do with manner, demeanor, bearing, voice inflection, and facial expressions. It’s what we do but also how we do it. “A man ranks according to how he does a thing,” George MacDonald wrote.

I Think that's what Jesus had in mind when he queried his disciples: “what do you do more than others? (Matthew 5:47). The “others” were the Pharisees who were “good” in the worst sort of way. True goodness brims with gentle wisdom and loving–kindness. It’s not off-putting, but wonderfully attractive in the fullest sense of that word, in that it attracts others to the beauty of our Lord. 

Jesus said, “The good (and here he uses a Greek word that means “beautiful”) person brings goodness (beauty) out of the good (beauty) stored up in him (Matthew 12:35). This is the beauty of holiness, a radiance that comes from within, from the One who dwells there, who is incomparably lovely, and who, in his quiet love will gradually turn our actions into something truly beautiful. 

Our part is to ask and ask and ask again...


Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All his wonderful passion and purity
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me

—Albert W. T. Orsborn

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