Summary: How are we doing as positive people. A call to unity within the church

October 8, 2006

Philippians 2:1-16

Sometimes life can be a matter of “IFs.” Fill in the blank . . . “If I only . . . Most of us have some ifs in our lives. Moments when we should have said “NO” instead of yes, or maybe we should have said “YES” instead of no.

Times when we should have made that investment, but didn’t.

Times when we should have expressed our true feelings for someone, but didn’t.

The time when we accepted a job we knew was the wrong one.

We can also ask those what if questions,

What if I never got sick?

What if I swung at that pitch in little league?

What if I hadn’t said yes to a job offer?

I need to tell you something that has to do with a ‘what if’ question. I am only a simple piece of paper away from being an NBA player. Now you may think that is a little funny, but it’s true. I really believe I have or maybe had all of the skill and talents to be a multi-million dollar player. And I was one simple piece of paper away from making it.

If, and it is a BIG if I was one piece of paper taller, I would have been about 6’7’’. I would have been able to look Joe Umstead eye to eye. Norm would have to look up to me. I was just one if away. Of course the fact that I am the tallest in my family may have something to do with it all.

Anyway, Paul starts Philippians 2 out with a series of IF statements. He said ~ ~

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care . . .

Those are some pretty huge if statements from Paul. You see Paul is leading us to a destination this morning. For me it comes under the heading of Christian community - with a subheading called unity.

Paul wants the church to be one, one spirit and one mind, filled with one purpose. So he tells us, if you’ve gotten anything out of following Christ, if the love of Christ makes a difference in your life, if being surrounded by other believers makes a difference in your life, if you have a heart, if you just simply care,

Paul’s if clauses are not only meant for those who are already practicing them, but also for the entire Christian community to join together in order to express these qualities. You see, if we call ourselves Christians, we are that individually, but we are also joined together in a much larger way, and that is as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we become the body of believers who become and are the church.

So, it is vital for us to follow Paul’s train of thought here. If we are brothers and sisters in Christ, then Paul pleads with us, to make his joy complete by doing some things which identify us as those brothers and sisters in Christ, brothers and sisters in community. And this is where community and unity come together.

According to the New International Version, Paul says, “be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

So, this means we all have to agree with one another, right? Wrong! Paul wants us to put aside our differences. He wants us to look at one another and say “I love this person, because they are my brother or sister in Christ.” We may not always agree, but we have the same love, the same spirit, the same purpose, and it all comes from Jesus, and it all starts with Jesus. There is no escaping this.

In Paul’s day, there were many different classes, and probably the most difficult of these qualities to follow was quality to follow Perhaps the most difficult quality to foster for Paul’s listeners, and for twenty-first century readers as well, is his instruction to "in humility consider others better than yourselves."

Now that is not too easy to do, is it? As much as we struggle with it, Paul wanted the Philippians to do it as well, knowing their society was dictated by social classes. Relationships, experiences, and possibilities were governed by inherited status. There were slaves, freeborns, citizens, foreigners, Jews, Gentiles, male, female. These were lifetime labels, forever denoting the favored or desperate status of an individual.

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