Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. – Philippians 2:1-2
When I read the entirety of chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I become very uncomfortable and reflective. Paul asks the church to make his joy complete by being one in love, spirit and mind. Oneness. Paul is reminding the followers of Jesus of the power of unity.
Jesus led the way in praying for this, as recorded in John 17. In that prayer Jesus prays for all who will come to know him through the message of the disciples. He prays for oneness. That we would not only be one with the Father, but that we would experience complete unity as members of a kingdom.
So, why does this verse in Philippians make me uncomfortable and reflective?
The western church has become comfortable, apathetic, more vested in its relationship to the source of power, and concerned with affirmation by mimicking culture. Taking a look at that church and unity is the last thing you see.
Individually we each seem to look out for our own interests. We build little kingdoms of influence and then ask God to bless it. It is not Jesus that we go to in order to quench our thirst, but to social media, our bank accounts, government, and so many other things. We thirst for power, popularity, perfection, and productivity. When we thirst for those things, we argue and lash out when we feel we are being kept from them.
This is where I become reflective: how do I contribute to this? How am I overlooking the needs of those around me? How is my identity tied to the values and systems of this culture?
As churches, we seem more into competing for dollars, bodies, and square footage than looking out for the interest in the church next door. How often I’ve seen churches plan a campus right next door to a long standing church. Would we ever think to cooperate with them? Problem is that we look at church growth as kingdom growth regardless of who has to be pushed out of the way to achieve it.
I understand that there are little pockets of cooperation among churches. I get that not every believer in our western culture is looking out for number one. But it is discouraging that they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
Disciples that bicker about status and churches that conflict over territory communicate to a culture that is looking everywhere for something to hope in.
And what it communicates is “why bother?”
According to Jesus prayer, our unity is what will communicate to those who are outside. Some will object, as we are promised there will be trials and persecutions. But others will be attracted and run through the gates of the Kingdom.
The power of the Kingdom comes when we put aside selfish ambition and vain conceit and start being secure in our true self in Christ.
How often are you jealous or bitter towards others in your church? When you look at people from another church, what do you see? What is the difference between making your name or the name of your church known verses making the love of Jesus known?
My new book Essential Questions: Learning to Follow Jesus by Examining What He Asked is due out in October 2019.
I am an author, discipleship coach, and speaker who helps followers of Jesus gain perspective on their identities so they can experience transformation in their decisions, behaviors and relationships and live in freedom. My book Tree of Lies: Transforming Decisions, Behaviors, and Relationships By Gaining Perspective On Your Identity in Christ available on Amazon (http://amzn.to/2bjMRyx) or Barnes and Noble (http://bit.ly/2c0q62I). Visit TreeofLies.com for free resources.
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