Summary: Since Christ made unity possible, let us pursue unity.
God Himself declared that unity is not only possible but most of all powerful. Looking down at the Tower of Babel, He said: “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Of course, God scattered those who built the tower all over the earth by confusing their language. But that’s only because they united for the wrong reason, that is, “so that [they] may make a name for [themselves].” But imagine how powerful it could be if we unite for the right reason!
Last week, when looked at Philippians 2:1-4, we saw that we were united with Christ in order to unite with each other. Let us read our passage again: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” From verse 1, we saw that Christ made unity possible. We saw the grounds for our unity, namely, that we are encouraged by our union with Christ, we experience comfort through the Father’s love, we enjoy fellowship with the Spirit and we exude tender compassion. In verses 2 to 4, we will see that since Christ made unity possible, we are to pursue unity. This morning, we will talk about “How To Be One.”
I already pointed out that verses 1 to 4 are actually one long sentence in Greek and that the only command and the main point of the passage is in verse 2: “make my joy complete by being likeminded”. Now there are five participles in verses 2b to 4 that explains the means on how we can fulfill the command to be united.
First, we are to DEVOTE ourselves to others. Verse 2b reads, “…having the same love”. Note that in verse 1 it says that we experience “comfort from his [or the Father’s] love”. This is the same love we are to have for each other. We cannot say that we can’t love the same way that God loved us for Romans 5:5 say that “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Someone wrote, “…people ought to love each other equally and not give preferential treatment to some over others.” Love is one of the keys to unity. The Contemporary English Version goes like this: “Live in harmony by showing love for each other.”
The participle “having” is in the present tense. That’s why the New American Standard Bible translated it as “maintaining the same love”. It is also in the active sense. That means we do it continuously and intentionally because being devoted to each other is never accidental and temporary. Dr. John MacArthur, Jr. wrote, “On a purely emotional level, having equal love for others is impossible, because people are not equally attractive. ...however, [it] is the love of the will, not of preference or attraction. It is based on an intentional, conscious choice to seek the welfare of its object.” We decide to love and to keep on loving each other. Romans 12:10 also says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
Second, we are to DEDICATE towards the same purpose together. Verse 2c continues with the next participle: “…being one in spirit and purpose.” The Contemporary English Version translated the clause this way: “Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.” Again, let me remind you that unity is not uniformity. That doesn’t mean, for example, that to express our unity we ought to practice bloc voting like some religious groups in the Philippines. It’s like playing only the drums or the bass guitar. At first, it sounds good. But later it gets monotonous.
Always remember our mission statement as a church: “Glorify God by multiplying Biblical, Committed and Loving Followers of Jesus Christ.” It is okay if we have different ideas and methods in fulfilling this mission as long as we pursue the same mission.
The New American Standard Bible goes like this: “united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” In another translation it says, “…being in full accord and of one mind.” There can be unity in diversity and diversity in unity. It’s like the band playing all its instruments in harmony. We are one body though each part of the body fulfills a different role. “No two Christians—no matter what their level of spiritual maturity and knowledge of Scripture—will understand everything exactly alike… [But they] will not allow inconsequential differences to divide them or hinder their service for the Lord.”