Summary: The very best place to be is in a church that is unified and handling well the threats to unity. The very worst is a church that is splintered, full of cliques and getting worse each year.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:1-13
Talk about extremes! The very best place to be is in a church that is unified and handling well the threats to unity. The very worst is a church that is splintered, full of cliques and getting worse each year. The unified church is a healthy, risk-taking place, where people dare to love unconditionally. In a splintered church factions center on personal preferences, rather than ministry.
Paul wrote to the Philippian believers, specifically requesting they be unified in their relationships and purpose.
Paul did not just put words on paper to fill a library shelf, he wrote to human beings. And he wrote knowing there would be threats to unity. Common sense tells us that, with humans, good and evil will eventually clash, because as it is with darkness and light, they are mortal enemies.
Throughout the last two thousand years churches have really had only one main problem – disunity.
God speaks to us today through the apostle's plea – he advises:
TO REMAIN IN GOD'S WILL YOU MUST BE IN UNITY.
Our question, of course is:
HOW IN THE WORLD CAN WE DO THAT?
The answer to unity isn't easy, but it can be easily stated:
TO HAVE UNITY, BE CHRIST-LIKE!
…and so, Paul spells-out that which constitutes Christ-likeness…5 ESSENTIALS:
1. Communion with Christ
It is impossible to ACT LIKE Christ if you do not WALK WITH Christ!
This (above all things) could solve the problems of churches around the world in any age. Believers who get away from a close walk with the Master cannot reproduce Christ-likeness in the flesh.
Paul said that the encouragement (or strength) he received from the Philippian church was because they were united, or in communion with Christ.
Belonging to Christ will produce a natural sense of belonging to each other that transcends our sinful nature. It’s like the old saying: Everybody who belongs to Christ belongs to everybody who belongs to Christ. In short, communion begets communion. This spiritual principle holds that it is impossible to be in genuine fellowship with Christ when you are out of fellowship with anyone for whom Christ died. It’s a syllogism you can state backwards or forwards; you can start with the negative or positive:
LOVE YOUR BROTHER/LOVE CHRIST;
HATE YOUR BROTHER/IMPOSSIBLE TO LOVE CHRIST.
2. Compassion for People
Tenderness and compassion are the same word in Greek. They are from the root word which, in English, is spleen. You have that little organ which helps purify your blood. It’s located in the visceral area and the ancient Greeks thought of it as the center or seat of emotion. After all, when you get upset, the first place you're liable to feel bad is the mid-section.
Christian compassion is a matter of being vulnerable enough with each other and the needs of the world's lost, so that we are moved viscerally and volitionally to do something about those needs.
When Jesus stood looking out over Jerusalem, he wept over the people who'd disowned Him throughout the ages. Compassion is a by-product of unconditional love for people.
3. Cooperation in the Spirit
Cooperation is when you are one in spirit and purpose. Our methods may conflict at times, but our goal will always keep us united. Did you know that you can take 100 pianos and tune them to the same tuning fork, and each of those pianos will then be in tune with each other? They’re in tune NOT because they decided to be just like one another – but because they were all set to the standard of one tuning fork. A.W. Tozer shared this in his wonderful little book The Pursuit of God, and he likened the pianos to worshippers in a church body: