Things That Are Excellent
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, —Philippians 1:9,10
The Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day spoke of ta diapheron. Diapheron, in classical ethics, were those subtle aspects of character that set one person apart from others. Paul must have had this distinction in mind when he wrote of “things that are excellent” (ta diapheronta).
The “things that excellent” have to do with manner, demeanor, bearing, voice inflection, and facial expressions. It is 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,” in this case, were the Pharisees who were “good,” but whose goodness was unpleasant. True goodness is winsome, and wonderfully attractive 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 goodness (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 excellent.
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