Summary: God wants his children to love each other and get along. Nothing is more true, yet nothing more challenging. Philippians helps us here.
What difference has Jesus made in your life?
In the first four verses Paul gives us if/then instructions.
IF you have these -
THEN practice these with one another -
Where do the spiritual supplies come from? Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit!
What are we supposed to do with them? Behave Christianly toward one another!
It is hard to imagine Paul giving this instruction unless there is some kind of need for it among these Philippians. He loves them so deeply, he speaks of having the very affection of Christ for them and having them in his heart. He always prays for them with joy. In chapter 4:1 he calls them "my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown... So, Paul has a very close relationship to these Christians in Philippi. Yet, it appears that they have some internal struggles with one another that need to be addressed. Perhaps Epaphroditus has told him of some of the relationship problems they are having there. We know that they face opposition from some outside of the church. Paul speaks about these trouble makers in chapter 1:28, and describes them more specifically in chapter 3:2, 18-19. But what we read in the first four verses of chapter 2 applies to the Philippian Christians and their relationships among themselves. Paul mentions two women in Chapter 4 who are not getting along. He pleads with them to agree with one another in the Lord, and asks a Christian brother there to help them.
I don't know about you, but this instruction is both encouraging and troubling.
It is encouraging in a backward way, because it tells me that Christians have always had to work to get along. It is not uncommon for brothers and sisters in Christ to have relationship issues with one another. Sibling rivalry is as old as siblings. Aren't you glad Christians don't have this problem today? We all just get along perfectly, don't we?
I'm encouraged to know that God still calls us saints even when we are not acting very saintly, aren't you? Praise God for his grace and mercy!
But this is also a little troubling to me. Why can't followers of Jesus Christ get along better than we do? Are we not supposed to be perfect as our Father is perfect? Are we not called to a higher calling than brawling? Is not love for one another the hallmark of the disciple of Jesus? Jesus himself taught us that. They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. John 13:35.
While this is indeed the hallmark of the disciple of Christ, it is also perhaps the most difficult part of discipleship! Brothers, it is hard to practice God's love toward some Christians! I mean, some people just really do and say things that grate on the nerves and get in the way of loving them. It's their own fault that I can't love them like Jesus told me too! Right?
Philippians is so helpful here. Does anyone doubt that God desires us to love each other? Is that optional? Is that an elective part of the course of Christian faith? Do we have to go over all the Bible verses on this again? Surely we all believe that God not only wants us to love each other, He commands us to love one another. But where do we find the guidance and power to practice Christ-like love? Where do we go to get our spiritual batteries charged and get the directions and motivation for Christ-like love for one another?
Philippians is loaded with everything we need for this. Paul starts with the stuff you already have from being united with Christ and the Spirit. Phil. 2:1 lists a supply of spiritual tools that make loving each other and living with one another work. They all come from being connected first with Christ. Then he teaches us how to connect with one another in Christ.
Look at our list again:
IF you have these from your relationship with Christ -
THEN practice these in your relationships with one another -
Isn't that beautiful? Notice that you don't wait on others to do this for you. You start first! You show your relationship with Christ by exercising what he has done for you toward others. Look at verses 3-4 carefully:
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.