A Step Towards Unity

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Chapter 2 of Philippians is a plea for unity and humility. These are two great things. As Christians, unity ought to be our great desire as we are supposed to be the one Body of Christ. It is a scandal to the world that Christianity is so divided, so balkanized into competing and sometimes warring entities. This is not the will of God as we know it in the scriptures. What unites us? This is most clearly stated in the famous hymn that precedes our verse for today and leads into it. Our unity is in Jesus, he who let go of divinity and became man, who humbled himself becoming obedient even to death, even death on the cross. It is because of this that “…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.” (verses 10-11) This is the uniting element of our Christian faith. Jesus Christ.

Let us consider another reason why we should be praying for and working towards unity—the Trinity. Our God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, undivided. Jesus tells us that when we see him we see the Father. They are One. When Jesus tells us that he will send his Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and to be with us after he is gone, this Holy Spirit is the same God, One and the Same. God is love and there is no division in love. Love unites, it is the binding force in all that is good, true and beautiful in God’s creation. Division is the product of sin. It is the desire of the Evil One. How is division avoided, or healed? We must first recognize the truth that we are One with God, that God’s desire is for us to be one family in Christ. Then we must repent our divisions, and seek his forgiveness. In doing so we must forgive each other. If we are stuck in the attitudes of condemnation, accusation, and hate, we are thinking in the ways of the world, not in the ways of God. It is only when we see our own failures in love, when we seek forgiveness for our actions and learn to forgive, that we will be able to reunite as one family, One Body, in Christ Jesus.

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How can we do this? The hint is in verses 10 and 11 above. Humility. Only the humble can love fully. Only the humble can recognize their own failures and seek God’s mercy. Only the humble can forgive without need for recompense, and only the humble can see the wisdom of unity as the ultimate desire of God. It is the humble who, “work out their salvation in fear and trembling, [for only the humble can see that it] is God who works in [them] to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

What, then, is God’s purpose. To bring us all home to him in Paradise. It is clear, in both testaments of the Bible, that God sees that those who love him and who keep true to his commandments are one with him. That is why we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling, in other words with awe and seriousness. This is an awe inspiring thing that Jesus Christ has called us to as Christian brothers and sisters. We ought, then, to take seriously our work to finally be unified in our love of God and in our love for one another.

There is one more reason. When we look at the world around us we become painfully aware of all the divisions, the suffering, yes, even the horrors that those divisions bring. This, as we know, is the result of mankind’s sinfulness. This sinfulness, as always, is rooted in pride, the false grandiosity of that little tyrant, the ego. We Christians have been called to live another way, that is, the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ. Our divisions are a sign of our failure in following this way. But we know that God’s love is not fickle. His love remains and He is always willing to forgive us. He is always ready to empower us with His grace to turn back again, to once more walk in His ways. He will not abandon us. We have much work ahead of us. Let us, then, “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” together, in his name.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.