Summary: Disunity...the church’s only problem
1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (NRSVA)
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 wrote to humans; he knew there would be threats to unity. Common sense tells us that where there is good, evil will eventually clash. 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, in order to spell-out that which will lead to unity, our text gives us a description of what constitutes Christ likeness.
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 (strength) the Philippian church had been from being united in Christ.
Belonging to Christ will produce a natural "belongingness" with each other that transcends our sinful nature. The spiritual principle is that it is impossible to be in genuine fellowship with the 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.
Tenderness and compassion are the same word in Greek. They are from the root word which in English is "spleen." That little organ helps purify your blood. It is 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.
You cannot be Christ like without compassion. Remember, it was God in Jesus Christ standing there looking out over Jerusalem, weeping over the people who’d disowned Him throughout the ages.
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: “…worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”