Skip to content

Seeing the True and the Lovely in Our World

Image Credit: Petr Vyšohlíd

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

Philippians 4:8-9

That’s a great idea. There’s plenty of negative things to think about, and we don’t even really have to try, it’s just there. At least it seems that way. So the encouragement to think about good things is especially useful and hopeful. It would be easy to follow this instruction and think about all the beautiful things that our faith entails.

The truth of the gospel, the nobleness of our calling to love our neighbors, the rightness of our relationship with God and the work of the Spirit, the purity of our standing before God, the loveliness of our local church and the relationships we have there, the admirability of those who serve us or minister the gospel to those in other places. The excellence of our programs and church pursuits or the praiseworthy nature of God just for being God. And all those things would be good and right to spend our time thinking about. But I think there is more to this passage than calling us to think about the good things of our faith.

There are two phrases used in this passage that suggest we are to look beyond our faith circle to see the beauty of the things in the world around us, even in the world that does not yet know or trust Jesus. The repeated phrase “whatever is” and the final “If anything is” suggests that a larger view is being encouraged. Frank Theilman captures this idea well:

The modern church, likewise, should applaud and learn from unbelieving expressions beauty. Mature Christians should feel no compulsion to read only literature written by other Christians, to view only movies and plays that fellow believers have produced, or to listen only to Christian music. Paul urges believers to discover and learn from the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy wherever it occurs. Not only will believers who do this shape their lives into the form that God desires, but they will uphold the truth within a relativistic age that claims truth cannot be known.

Christians should nevertheless not forget that the touchstone of what is true and good is the Word of God and that every moral expression within the wider unbelieving world should be measured against the standard of the gospel as preserved in Scripture.

In this passage, Paul asserts the need for believers to cast their intellectual nets widely — to allow all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, wherever it is found, to shape their thinking. He then urges them to practice what they have learned from him of the Christian tradition. Christians today should not retreat from face-to-face encounters with the best unbelieving minds of the age, but should read them and hear them in the hope of learning truth, justice, and excellence from them and thereby becoming more obedient followers of Christ. At the same time, Christians should strive for minds so steeped in the Scriptures and Christian tradition that they are able to approach the values of the unbelieving world with a critical eye, an eye able to discern between what appears to be true but is, in subtle ways, false. – Frank Thielman, NIV Application Commentary, Philippians 

So, we look around us for those things to celebrate and learn from. The clothing company that donates 1 for 1 to homeless shelters for every item sold. The excellence in performance or artistic expression. Those who defend and stand beside the unjustly treated. Those who explore our world and show us new and exciting things about our creator even if they don’t think of God. 

The world still belongs to God, and it is still governed and filled with his goodness. We can look around us and see evidence of his grace and mercy. And these verses don’t simply suggest that those things (the true, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy) exist, but that we are to actively look for them and when we find them, to learn from, celebrate, and allow ourselves to be filled with the hope they can bring us.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that the world is heading for destruction at ever increasing speed. Take a trip around your city/area on a scavenger hunt for the good that exists. Find an organization that helps those who are facing difficult times. Visit an art museum and celebrate the skill on display. What else can you think of that may display the goodness of God’s world, the evidence that he still cares for it?

Share on Social

Back To Top