Posted in musings

unity

While reading through Philippians a few days ago, I was struck by Paul’s incredible emphasis on unity in the first few verses of Philippians 2. Look how he sets it up:

…if there is any consolation in Christ…

…if there is any comfort of love…

… if there is any fellowship of the Spirit…

…if there is any affection and mercy…

…if any of these things apply, then be like-minded, have the same love, be of one accord, and be of one mind.

He’s not asking for much – just for the basic elements of the Christian faith working in our hearts and in our relationships with God and others. He’s not saying, if you have a surplus of consolation from Christ for your own sorrows and troubles, then move on to unity with your fellow believers. He’s not saying, if you are so comforted by the love of God that you feel love overflowing out of you, then go ahead and try to be one with other Christians. No – if there is even the tiniest bit of comfort and consolation in the love of Christ, if there is even the faintest hint of community through the Spirit or kindness and mercy in your heart, endeavor to live as a unified body.

Be like-minded, he says – be one in doctrine and understanding of the faith. Have the same love, he says – be one in love for God first, not falling away to love other things more, even other good things. Be of one accord, he says – be one in purpose and in fellowship, following God together and not each according to his own whim. And be of one mind, he says again, emphasizing that unity of teaching, doctrine, and understanding. In this unity, the Philippians would be able to fulfill Paul’s joy in them.

All the following verses, that famous passage about humbling ourselves and putting others first as Christ did in the Incarnation and on the cross, should be read in light of these first two verses. Why are we to esteem others as better than ourselves, and look out for the interests of others, and imitate the humility and obedience of Christ? That we might become a more unified Church, one in mind and heart and will, bound together by the love of Christ and the work of the Spirit.

It makes me think that the Reformation was one of the most unfortunate things to happen in the life of the Church (although it was the natural consequence of the sin that the Church had allowed into even her highest offices) – I can’t think of anything else that has splintered Christianity and destroyed our unity (on institutional and personal levels) to such a degree.

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