Joy is an Apologetic
In Philippians 2:14, Paul commands, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”
The ESV translated grumbling as complaining, but that translation falls short. Grumbling is a superior choice as it more accurately conveys the essence of the Greek word. Paul isn't addressing the outward expression of discontent; instead, he is pointing to its origin within our hearts.
In other words, some of us can restrain ourselves from vocalizing the contents of our hearts. However, this isn't sufficient. God is concerned not only with our actions but also with our attitude. He calls us to thankfulness, gratitude, and contentment. The mindset of a grumbler is characterized by a tendency to focus solely on perceived slights or a sense of missing out in life. The Christian must put that away.
We also must put away disputing.
This isn’t talking about contending for the faith. There are fights that we must engage in. Christians must argue and tear down the lies of the world.
Jude 1:3 says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints.”
The word contend literally means "struggle upon, appropriately.” We must engage in principled combat, wrestle, and fight for “the faith.” “The Faith” refers to the doctrines of the Word of God. These are under constant attack both from without and within. To not dispute with those who twist and attack God’s word is to be unfaithful.
What kind of disputing is Paul addressing?
He is referring to a vocalized, nit-picking, fault-finding attitude. He is talking about bickering, being quarrelsome, and having a propensity for brawls and contention—being inclined to petty fighting and easily provoked to contest.
He seems to have in mind in-fighting about pointless or peripheral things.
It's okay to disagree. We don't need to agree on every preference, opinion, or doctrine. Disputing wears people out. It drains the joy from friendships and fellowship. It's important to recognize when to step back. You must cultivate discernment to distinguish whether you're defending the faith or merely disputing over matters open to debate.
We should put these things away because a joyful and united church serves as a powerful apologetic to a lost world.
What does "apologetic" mean? It refers to a formal defense or justification of something, whether it be a theory or a religious doctrine.
Joy itself functions as a Christian apologetic.
Listen to Paul in Philippians 2:14…
“…So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…”
The entire world grumbles and fights over stupid things. Their discontent drives them to pursue twisted and perverse things in an attempt to fill a void only God can satisfy.
Yet, here we stand as representatives of Christ—joyful and content because of Jesus. Our happiness radiates like a beacon in a dark world, drawing attention to the word of life, the gospel, that we hold fast.
As Christians, liberated from sin and with the promise of help on our journey to eternal life, joy should be integral to our testimony before the world. Putting away complaints and disputes illustrates the reality of the gospel in our lives, confirming our status as children of God.