Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel . . . (Philippians 1:27)
Hmm, striving together with one mind? Firm in one spirit? I know I struggle with this concept. I’m often prideful and I’m good at arguing for my point of view. And I really don’t like being wrong. I mean, we have opinions because we think they are right. I’m not going to hold to an opinion for the fun of it . . . But there are many people who make up the body of Christ, and we are all unique individuals (praise God), so how can we go about having the same mind? What does this mean? What was Paul aiming for? Did he really want a group of believers with all the same thoughts and opinions and way of thinking?
The Philippians held a very high opinion of themselves as Roman citizens. Following the invasion by Rome in 167 BC, everyone in Philippi was given the right to Roman citizenship. This was unusual in the Roman Empire, but was granted because of the wealth of the city. The city itself became known as “Little Rome”. Now being a Roman citizen was a cause for pride. They had certain rights and privileges that no one else in the Empire had, including:
- The right to buy property;
- The right to vote and elect magistrates;
- They had the right to contract a marriage;
- The right to appear before the Emperor;
- They were not to be executed, or severely punished, without fair trial;
- If sentenced with the death penalty, Roman citizens could not be sentenced to crucifixion as it was considered too horrible a means of death;
- Someone who physically beat a Roman Citizen was liable to capital punishment.
Because of their Roman citizenship it seems that the Philippians became prideful and conceited, holding high regard for themselves and becoming individualistic. Ring any bells in your heart, or as you look at soceity today? Only thing is, those of us in Christ no longer have their identity in national citizenship, sport club membership, workplace identity, or even family name. We belong to a citizenship in heaven:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
And because of this, we are called to unity:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition 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 2:1-4)
The key to unity that Paul brings is humility. It isn’t necessarily thinking the same way, or even having the same opinions on how the church should run, which party should be elected in politics, or which sports team should be supported. It is about preferring one another, considering others of more importance than ourselves, and putting the fellowship of believers before our own personal agendas. This might mean biting our tongue at times in an argument that really just isn’t that important. It might mean trying to hear the heart of a sermon, rather than “nit-picking” on small details we disagree with. It could mean taking time out of our Sunday Sabbath to help a friend move house. As our good Lord said:
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Application Questions to think through:
- What things in my culture are esteemed?
- Where do I have pride or conceit in my life?
- In what environments am I not walking in humility of heart and mind?
- What does humility (servanthood) look like to me?
- What is one small act of service that I can do for a fellow believer this week, showing I choose to prefer them over myself?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)