Paul begins the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians with a very common form of argument called a syllogism. In this case it is “if, then” form. if you have found any encouragement in being united with Christ in faith, if you have found comfort and love in this relationship, if in this faith, this relationship with Christ, you have experienced any of His tenderness, or compassion, through your fellow Christians believers, then make [your] joy complete by offering the same kind of encouragement, love, tenderness and compassion toward all of God’s children. The argument is quite clear. “From one who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
Likemindedness. This is what Paul is trying to get us to think about here. This is an admonition for unity among believers. It is based on our shared threefold experience as Christian believers, that is, our relationship with Christ, with God’s love, and with the Spirit. We believe as Christians that, out of his infinite love for us, God entered humanity in Christ Jesus and shared it with us, even unto death, and that he is still present to us in His Spirit. If this is truly what all Christians believe, then why are we so divided among ourselves? What could be more central to the truth of Christianity than our unity in Christ and the comfort and love that it gives us? Christ calls us to love one another as he loved us. What prevents this then?
Paul addresses this question too when he writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (verses 3-4) Could our divisions be the result of “selfish ambition or vain conceits?” Do we, too often, look to our own interests, rather than those of the other? We are divided, that is a fact. It is to the embarrassment of Christianity that this is so. Imagine how the world would be different if all Christians were truly united with Christ as one body, where no part of the body thought itself greater than, or more important than, or better than any other part of the body. What might the world be like if we were all of one mind and began to encourage, comfort, and love all others, not just our own, in the same love and Spirit as we have been given? Is that not an awesome thought? Is that not the wisdom of God? Might that be what the Spirit is trying to say to us here in Paul’s admonition to the Philippians?
Paul is again, admonishing us to be like Christ, to act in His Spirit. What is it about Christ that we are to imitate? His humility, his compassion and tenderness toward all, without exception. God’s humility is demonstrated in Jesus Christ who became one with us, who, “…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 on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8) This is what we are to imitate. This is what God’s love is all about. This is what God wants of us in this world. He wants us to be Christ in the world today.
Lord, help us to turn away from what divides us as Christians. Unite us in humility and in our love for you and for one another. You have called us to be the Body of Christ in the world. Make us one in your love so that we might reveal that oneness in love to this world that is so hungry and needy for it. We pray this in your name, Jesus, that name that when it is spoken, “…every knee in heaven, on earth and under the earth should bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (verses 10-11) Amen!
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