Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.
Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus.
Well you heard it here first, we are told to get along with each other, not fight bicker and quarrel. Lets give this a try and see what happens. I suspect that if everyone gave this a shot we could solve most all of the words problems quickly and easily.
When it comes to getting along with other Christians, the Bible doesn’t waste words. If we’re going to really get along, we’ll have to model the sacrifice of Christ.
We’re about to read a passage that uses the word “if” several times. This tiny Greek word, however, is synonymous with “since.” It’s a “conditional particle,” and it works like this. You might think, “If I’m going to church today, I’d better get out of bed and get dressed.” You’re really saying, “Since I’m going to church today and since the clock tells me I’m already 15 minutes late, I’d better get out of bed and get dressed for church.” Or even more realistic, “If I’m going to be happily married to my wife, I’d better take the garbage out today.” Since you probably want to be happily married, “if” is the same as “since.” And you can replace the word “if” with “since” in any of these opening statements from Philippians 2.
How can you practice unity in an imperfect church? How can it possibly work?
- Eliminate selfishness
What a powerful instruction: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (2:3)
We live in a land that preaches a “Look-out-for-number-1” gospel. The climb up career ladder is so focused, business ethics are often left wanting. The entire nation suffers, at times, from selfish-driven, corporate stock market scandals. Countless individuals suffer in smaller offices, where some career ladders are placed squarely on the backs of fellow employees.
How opposite a message the church proclaims! Our greatest leaders are our greatest servants. We’ve even named our key lay-leaders – deacons – after the Greek word for “servants.” The “diakonos” in the Greek world was the lowest servant on the social totem pole.
- Be subject to Christ
There is more to getting along with one another than simply putting aside selfishness. We must all put aside our personal desires and personal standards, and reach for a higher mark. When we have “fellowship with” or are “united with” Christ (2:1), we find that higher standard. When we are united with Christ, we will be united with the Word of God. Having a sound theology, a sound understanding of what it is to follow Christ, is critically important.
Without a higher standard, each one of us is left to determine the standard of morality on our own. Another phrase for such a lifestyle might be “cultural anarchy,” since there would be no authoritative voice of truth. The church is the last point of reference for ultimate truth in any culture. Armed with the never-changing truth from the Bible, the church has been charged with proclaiming that message without apology.
III. Serve others
Instead of selfish ambition, there is humility (2:3). Instead of vain conceit, there is service to others (2:3-4). It all leads to unity in the entire church, for Christians who forsake selfishness, submit to the authority of Christ, and serve one another will be quickly “focusing on one goal.” (2:2).
What an unusual savior we have. He gave up everything to become nothing. The one who should have been served came to serve. We should have died for him, but he died for us. As a result of his willingness to serve, Jesus was exalted to the highest place in all of creation.
When Christians elect to serve others, they too are exalted. As Jesus promised, the first become last, but the last become first. The greatest leaders? Servants, all of them.
We already know that success and servanthood go hand in hand. Bill Gates became the richest man in America because he developed a software program of “windows” that turned the computer into a servant for millions of people. The most successful companies in America consistently put the customer first, with either their products, their services, their assistance, or both. If excellence in the business world is tied to servanthood, how much more so is it true in the church?
Heavenly Father, give us the ability to love one another, get along with each other, and forgive each other as you have commanded. Help us to put aside selfishness and serve each other as the deacons you desire us to be. Amen