Direct Object

 · 
January 9, 2023
 · 
3 min read
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It was a scathing text, just dripping with an accusatory tone. Of course, it came from someone my counselee would run into many times during holiday celebrations. She could visualize it — the individual that hurt her, welcoming her to a party with a double-edged smile. As we talked through post-assault wisdom steps, it became clear. We knew where we needed to go — straight back to middle school, to English Composition class. As we talked it through, the circumstances conjured up visions of confused middle schoolers diagramming sentences, not really sure where to draw the lines. The situations were remarkably alike, yet completely different.

Who would have guessed that sentence diagramming would have such an impact on relationships? Unlike many Algebra equations, the truth we learned in those tedious grammar worksheets has really proven helpful! The diagramming rules regarding prepositions sometimes need to guide our thinking. Remember how we figured out where to put those spidery link lines? In one lesson, long ago, many of us learned that prepositions have both direct and indirect objects.  While we tentatively diagrammed sentences, we learned to draw them out. With my hurting friend, we drew them out too, this time in light of Philippians 2.

Philippians 2 is not often used to tell the Christmas story, but it should be. In it, Paul references both the manger and the cross, as he helps us practically navigate life with difficult people:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

(Philippians 2:5-8)

If we were to diagram the love Christ showed through his incarnational appearance in a manger and horrific death, we would draw a direct line from him to us. We are the direct object of his incredible descent into humanity, and his humiliation on a cross. He did this for us — demonstrating the incomprehensible depth of his love. His action warrants a clear, strong, direct object line.

That’s not the end of the Philippians 2 Christmas story though, because Jesus’ mission didn’t end at the cross. Note the present tense that echoes through the balance of the passage:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

(Phil.2: 9-11)

Our exalted Savior, Jesus Christ, is Lord.This beautiful truth leads us to the rest of our diagramming project. Christ, who paid the price for sin in utmost humility, rose from the grave in utmost power.  He enables us to love the most difficult people in our lives. The love we show them is for Christ (its direct object), and toward them (its indirect object). When that order becomes our focus, sentence diagramming becomes a way of life.

The gospel, and the pattern it gives us, allows us to respond to burning words with calm humility. It gives us strength to pray for those who persecute, or just highly annoy, us. It makes it possible for us to pass a troublesome texter a plate of Christmas cookies, with a pure heart and genuine smile. It’s all about knowing the right direct object.

Fieldstone Counseling is dedicated to providing biblically-based, Christ-centered, clinically informed care to all who seek it. Our gospel calling is to make this type of care available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances. This work is made possible through the consideration of generous donors. Would you please consider Fieldstone Counseling in your year-end giving? All donations are completely tax-deductible, and integral to our mission. Thank you!

Crystal is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, counselor, and friend. She is passionate about connecting others with the truth of God's miraculous power and sustaining presence.

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Laura Hudson takes joy in joining the Holy Spirit to connect God’s Word to struggles in life and to see the Lord’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ in people’s hearts.

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