"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Friday, December 14, 2012

Being One

Think of  how a team works. Diverse people with a variety of skills, backgrounds, and talents come together with a common goal. The members are not identical. In fact, the more varied the better. The thing that needs to be shared is the goal, whether delivering the ball to the basket or selling a predetermined number of widgets. As Paul continues his introduction to Philippians 2 he speaks of that kind of oneness in the church:

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Philippians 2:1-2

I used to look at this and other passages on unity and think that this is an ideal the church has just not lived up to. In my stint as an elder, I was disillusioned by the level of concerns that people divided over: church furnishings, music style and volume, loyalty to this leader or that one. I would think, frankly, that Jesus prayer at the last supper was in vain, that the free-will of his unruly bride kept him from this one blessing he asked from her. While it is true that Jesus must not be pleased with such petty divisiveness, I now believe that, in general, the church does function in unity with diversity. The members, though diverse, seek to fulfill the ultimate mission: go, teach and baptize. The methods are as diverse as the vegetation that clothes the earth, but the mission of unity is to bring ourselves and others into fellowship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In so doing, we bring ourselves into fellowship with one another. We are on in purpose.

Key passages on spiritual gifts support this view. Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 point to the diversity of the body and the different spiritual gifts. We understand the varied personalities given to different members drive the things we do and even the way we do them. That is God's design. The hand cannot say to the foot, "I have no need of you." We are interdependent if we want to accomplish the mission. Rather than judging one another for our differences, what if we embraced and even thanked God for them? The charge here in Philippians 2 is not so much about producing "Stepford" Christians, who look, act and talk alike. It is more about remembering the goal.

Which end of the court are you driving toward? Our thoughts, meditations and actions take us toward one or the other. One end of the court is the flesh, with its unending desires and insatiable lusts. This is the way of the world, the passion of our culture aided and abetted by the advertising industry. The other end is the direct opposite. It is fueled by the encouragement of being united with Christ, the compassion of his love, the fellowship of his Spirit, and by tenderness and compassion. The team mates are clothed in the fruit of the Spirit and motivated by him from within.

Keep your eye on the goal. Let go of the thousand petty distractions. We win because we function as a team. Press on!

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