Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Phil 4:8
As a storm of spiritual darkness rolls over our nation, it is easy to become pessimistic, apathetic, even embittered. The nation’s newspapers are filled with lies. Our universities are consumed with anti-intellectual witch hunts. Our legislatures are peopled with grifters and gropers and quite probably worse. We perceive that the job of salvaging the necessities from our modern cultural shipwreck is too great for our abilities, so we feel that there is nothing to be done.
To let that feeling reign would be a great mistake. No one has ever built something great by concentrating on the faults of what is to be replaced. And let there be no doubt, our child-sexualizing, adultery-promoting, fame-celebrating, Moloch-worshiping culture will be replaced. So rather than concentrating on the stuff that needs to go, it occasionally helps to spend time dwelling on what we need to replace it with.
We need to think about what we must do, what we are going to build. We need to consciously dwell on the attributes of the replacement.
So I’d like to pull a couple of things from Paul’s list in Philippians 4:8 to help you get started.
Dwell on what is true. Jesus said that it was necessary that offenses come, but woe to him through whom they come. Lies are the same. We swim today in a sea of lies, of fake news and fake genders. But we must commit ourselves to truth. We must embrace the truth about ourselves, knowing that we are as susceptible to self-deceit as any other men. We must accept the truth about what we have done and failed to do, individually and collectively. We must know ourselves, where we have been, where we are, and where we propose to go. Secondly, we must dedicate ourselves to speaking the truth. We will speak it clearly, avoiding the weasel words of liars and charlatans. And we will speak it boldly. Let the chips fall where they may.
Dwell on what is pure and lovely. When God rested from his works, He proclaimed the world very good. From that day forward, the snake in the garden and the pedophile at the editor’s desk have produced pollution designed to destroy those works. We cannot restore God’s creation wholly: that’s His job and it will be done. But we can work to contain the pollution, to neutralize the poison. We can preserve the sanctity of marriage, especially our own. We can protect the innocence of childhood, beginning with our children. We can seek and appreciate beauty, whether in architecture or in nature. We do not deny that evil and ugliness exist. But we emphatically deny, even in the midst of our post-modern cultural cesspool, that only evil and ugliness exist. We will learn the difference and assert that beauty is infinitely better.
Dwell on what is excellent. The very concept of “privilege” – whether white or male or strait or abled and thin of whatever insane variety they propose next – is a conscious dismissal of the idea that your results may vary, that some things are and should be better than others. Excellence denies the faux-egalitarianism that pervades our modern culture. It says that some things are at their very core better than others. Excellent things are healthier. They are more conducive to life. They demand a greater skill to create. They have more intrinsic value. A commitment to excellence demands that we git gud at whatever we do, and that we teach our kids to do the same.
We are surrounded by decay on all sides. Our buildings are purposely ugly. The family is broken. our nation is broke. Our televisions dump sewage onto our bedroom floors. For these things will come a reckoning.
However, a collapsed house is not propped back up – it must be replaced by a newer and stronger one. Let us make a commitment to laying the foundation for that replacement dwelling by dwelling on the things that will make that building our home.