The Sweet Aroma of Unity

Recently my husband and I spent a week in South Carolina, visiting our daughter and her family. While there, we attended a Presbyterian church and heard a very good sermon about the importance of believers being “of one mind.” Philippians 2:2 (Looks like I am back to the unity in Christ theme from April!).

This doesn’t mean we’ll always agree about everything. It does mean that we will meditate on the things that unite us.

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

As a member of the body of Christ we receive so many good things –forgiveness, love, acceptance and encouragement for a start. We are able to receive the sacraments, to worship and to work with others who share the common goal of spreading the Gospel. When our minds are filled with gratitude for all that we’ve received, most disagreements with one another will pale.

Early in Philippians we are exhorted to:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

In other words, we are to put on the mind of Christ, who sacrificed Himself for the good of others, humbly, as a servant. When we imitate Him, we will “shine as lights in the world”(Philippians 2:15b) and the sweet aroma of unity will fill our lives.

For more about unity in Christ see these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer — What it Means to be in Christ as a Community

United with Christ through His Church

Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution by Tony Merida–Book Review

Agree in the Lord

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”  Philippians 4:2-3

This brief message is given near the end of the book of Philippians.  Evidentially there has been a serious quarrel between two members of the congregation, leaders who have worked with Paul to advance the gospel.  This pains him, and he begs them to work out their differences.

Disagreements like this still happen, and they create a tense and unhappy atmosphere in the church.  Notice that Paul does not take sides, probably because when a relationship is broken, both people have contributed to the problem.  Both must be willing to work toward reconciliation and peace.  Paul also asks a third party, his “true companion” (possibly Epaphroditus who delivered the letter) to help them resolve things.  He asks the women to “agree in the Lord.”  That doesn’t mean they have to agree in every detail, they don’t have to become best friends, just be willing to set aside personal grievances for the sake of Christ and the good works they can continue to do together.

Have you ever felt upset with a fellow member?  What did you do?  Blow up and tell them off?  Run to another member and start gossip about their bad behavior?  Complain to the Pastor and expect him to take your side?  All of these actions will only magnify the problem.  In the book of Matthew we find the correct first step toward a solution:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  Matthew 18:15

Sometimes you will find the person did not mean to offend you at all; sometimes you will reach a compromise;  sometimes you will just realize how important it is to forgive and set aside differences for the good of Jesus and the gospel.  After all, what kind of witnesses are we, if we can’t even get along with each other?

I’d like to hear some stories from others.  Have you been in this situation?  How have you handled it?  Maybe I’ll tell you one of my own experiences tomorrow.

God loves you and so do I!