Summary: Selflessness creates unity
UNITY IN THE CHURCH
Abraham was a man of wealth. Genesis 13 tells us that Abraham was wealthy with livestock and silver and gold. Abraham lived a nomadic life so that his flocks and herds always had fresh food. Abraham was not alone. He had his nephew Lot with him. Lot was also becoming wealthy. The two of them together were wearing out the land wherever they stopped. There was not enough water for all.
Genesis 13:7 tells us that a quarrel arose between the herdsman of Abraham and the herdsman of Lot. They had a job to do and it was far too crowded. Abraham did not want quarrels or fights to break out between he and Lot, so Abraham proposed that they part company. It was not an angry parting, but a parting of practicality. Abraham told Lot, "If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left" (Genesis 13:9).
Abraham allows Lot to choose where his herds would go. Abraham wanted peace and harmony between his family members. Abraham showed a great amount of selflessness when it came to this potentially family crushing issue.
READ PHILIPPIANS 2:1-4
The Apostle Paul is commending the Philippians on their faith and wants them to continue in faithfulness. His desire for them is made clear in verse 2 when he says that he wants them "to be united in spirit as one." He wants them unified. What is unity? What does unity look like? Whenever I search for a picture of unity I think back to the time in the United States after 9/11. I am sure the sale of American flags spiked and the display of patriotism was at an all time high. You couldn’t walk or drive down a street without seeing red, white, and blue waving in the wind. That is unity.
Philippians 2 describes unity in terms of mind and love, but also gives byproducts of unity as well. Paul tells us that encouragement comes from being unified. Comfort also comes from being united. Fellowship and tenderness and compassion are also produced when believers are unified. Those are all things that we want in our church... are they not?
We want to be an encouraging place.
We want to be comforting to those who are hurting and mourning.
We want to be a place of fellowship and support.
We want to be a place of love and compassion.
If we want our church to be these things and more, we must have unity. What does unity look like? Paul defines what unity will look like in the church. He states that he wants them to be "like-minded" and wants them to "have the same love." These two defintions show us what unity is. I guess I want to skip ahead and ask the question: How do we get there? How do we get there? But we first have to know what we’re after before we decide how to get there.
Joseph was a man who had a life with many ups and downs. He grew up as the favored son among all of his brothers. He was treated better than his brothers and his brothers grew to resent him. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. Yet, God blessed him in the home in which he served and later in prison. He got to prison by the way by being falsely accused. He later became the number two man in all of Egypt. He went from slave to big boss.
Joseph’s family moved to Egypt to escape famine and eventually his father died. A great fear came over his brothers. Genesis 50:15, states, "When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’" Joseph showed his brothers grace. They probably deserved something for their sin against Joseph, but Joseph saw with eyes of faith what God had done. He did not do anything but love his brothers and their families. Joseph showed a great amount of selflessness when it came to forgiving wrongs against him.
Verse 2 records the desire of the Apostle Paul that the Philippians be "like-minded." To be "like-minded" means to have unity. The Apostle Paul knows that when they are united their minds on the same subject and moving in the same direction. He sees that unity will mean their thoughts are in-tune with each other.
I want you to imagine the church as a canoe. Inside the canoe are two paddlers. One paddler is rowing forward and one backward. Maybe one paddler is paddling and the other is just sitting there. Will they get anywhere? Will they get anything accomplished? It is only when they come together and decide on a common destination and work together that the canoe gets moving.