Make My Joy Complete

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he is addressing people he knows and loves.  He urges them to “make my joy complete” by being of one accord, living in self- sacrificing love and unity with one another.  It reminds me of this verse from Psalm 133:

Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

If you are part of a church community, you know how true this is, and how disturbing disagreements can be.  My devotional reading this morning featured a quote by Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a South African writer and pastor.  It speaks to this topic.

“Let our temper be under the rule of the love of Jesus:  He can not alone curb it–He can make us gentle and patient.  Let the vow, that not an unkind word of others shall ever be heard from our lips, be laid trustingly at His feet.  Let the gentleness that refuses to take offense, that is always ready to excuse, to think and hope the best, mark our intercourse with all.  Let our life be one of self-sacrifice, always studying the welfare of others, finding our highest joy in blessing others.  And let us, in studying the Divine art of doing good, yield ourselves as obedient learners to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  By His grace, the most common-place life can be transfigured with the brightness of a heavenly beauty, as the infinite love of the Divine nature shines out of our humanity.”

Let’s all make it our prayer today, that the fruit of the Spirit will be displayed in our lives, and in the life of our Christian communities.

For more on the fruit of the Spirit see these posts:

Mmm . . . Fruit.

Let the Fruit of the Spirit Flow

A Fruit We All Need — Self Control

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Community of Saints

“The community of the saints is not an ‘ideal’ community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

If you have never read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I highly recommend it as a realistic look at living in the Christian communion of saints.

 

A Quote from Reframing the Soul by Gregory Spencer

I reviewed this book earlier this week, and although it doesn’t specifically apply to our month’s theme, Laity, the author does have some important things to say about what he calls “engaging with others.”  To be successful as laypeople we must be able to get along and work well with one another. In any congregation there are differences:  differences in background, education, ability, understanding and more.  Sometimes these differences lead to conflict.  When that happens, Gregory Spencer points to the 4th Chapter of Ephesians for a guide to “reframing” our outlook.  Maybe you’ll find it helpful.

“An extended biblical passage that addresses “engaging with others” is Ephesians 4.  Paul reminds his readers of what makes for a strong community.  Overall we maintain unity by living peacefully (3) and fulfilling our various roles and callings (4-13).  We do this by putting off the old self and putting on the new self (22-34, some obvious reframing here), feeding certain character qualities–humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love(2) industriousness (28), compassion and forgiveness(32) –and by starving sensual indulgence (17-19), extended anger, bitterness, brawling, slander and malice(31).  I’m particularly taken with the admonitions to speak the truth in love (15,25) and to talk for the sake of building others up (29).”