Thinking Alike

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.

Like minded…

Being like Jesus is conditional.  After all, if we want to be “married” to our job or wife or children in the metaphorical sense, we have to spend the greater portion of our time with them, otherwise it’s just a word we use to describe how we feel about them.  With Christ it’s no different, for the basis of any relationship is the “relating” part where interaction happens.

I fall down on the relating part in almost every single one of my relationships because I don’t interact very well.  O, I’ve improved over the years and grown more socially adept, but in the end I don’t communicate very well.  Seems odd for a guy who writes a couple of blog entries a week to be saying, right?  Not at all, since processing things out loud is how I do it best, writing things down makes that process even better.

Let’s take apart this text a little…which means in my “language”: a lot—if you’re trying to relate to me.  😉

Paul begins each statement with the word ifIf you have any encouragement…if any comfort from His love…etc.  So we need to deal with that preposition first.  If is a conditional word setting up what comes next as contingent on an action or whatever that comes later.  When someone says,  “If you pick up the dry cleaning, I’ll get the groceries” they are really making a deal with the other person.  Yet in that case it’s not conditional necessarily, rather the efficiency depends on both parties fulfilling these separate jobs.  The person making the deal is probably thinking about a supper deadline, which means in order for them to get supper done in a timely manner they can’t pick up the dry cleaning and buy groceries.

Every one of these relationship benefits are contingent on being connected with Christ in an intimate way.  Anyone “in” a building is inside it; anyone wanting to be “in” a relationship has to be on inside it.  Each benefit named above comes as a result of being “in” Jesus, for the Greek word used here is ei which means to go into.  How the translators got from this word to united is contextual, since the last phrase uses being one for the body of Christ.  In order for us to be one with each other in Christ, we have to be united with Him as well.

The only way to find encouragement is to be in Jesus.  Where will we find comfort?  From His love.  How do we fellowship with the Spirit?  By being united with Christ.  How do we develop tenderness and compassion?  Through our unity with Jesus then, as a result of that connection, unity with one another.

Using like-minded to describe the church can be misconstrued to mean we agree on everything.  Later on in this very book Paul debunks that POV, which is something we’ll study more about when we reach chapter 3.  No, the scars on the right hand won’t be the same as the left if we are right handed.  I use my right hand more than my left, so my left hand has been bruised by hammers and cut by sharp things far more often than my right.  The experience of the left hand has been quite different from the right, since it has been on the receiving end of many of the bad aiming mistakes my right has made.  (Those aiming “mistakes” are due to concentration and focus, for the most part, which involve wandering mind.)  Yet no matter what the differences are in the two hands’ experiences, they are united by and work for the goal of one body—mine.

Paul wants the Philippians, and so us, to have the same love while being like-minded.  How can such a disparate bunch of people have the same love, be like-minded and united in spirit and purpose?  They would have to take on the mind, spirit and purpose of Christ.  There’s no other way for us to be one in spirit, since the only spirit we have in common is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives us the mind of Christ, which in turn unites us into one purpose and love, for the mind we submit to is His; the purpose we take on is His; the love we know and express is His.

The moment we step outside of Jesus being the source of all these things is the moment fissures in the body of Christ begin to happen.  Paul uses the rewards of His presence in our lives to inspire us to unity.  If we have any encouragement from being one with Christ, and through this connection we find fellowship, comfort from His love, compassion and tenderness, our next step by default is to be united with other people who follow Him in the same way.  Jesus might be the Truth, the Way, the Life, but He is a being not a philosophy or religion.  If the word “religion” means something we practice in a committed and wholly dedicated way, then our relationship to God can be called a religious experience.  You can’t have a religious relationship with someone without being with them all the time.

The encouragement we experience is from the presence of Jesus in our hearts.  The friendship with God comes through opening our hearts to the Spirit.  Once we open up we find comfort in His love, for we realize He loved us before we were willing to be open.  The fruit of such a connection grows out of the spirit of love we find there and inspires us to be loving, compassionate and tender with one another.

If we are submitted to the love of Christ, then we have the same love.  That love will bring with it a natural tendency to comfort those who share in His mind.  We will grow more loving, tender and compassionate toward everyone because of our connection with Jesus and His body of believers.

I will make a bold statement here:  If people are growing colder in their religion, harder in their judgment, less pliable in their POV and generally exclusive in their relationships, from the words of Paul I gather they have cut themselves off from the mind of Christ.  To be like Christ one sacrifices for the sake of others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3, 4.

Notice the wording in that last sentence doesn’t subtract having personal interests or negate pursuing them, rather it includes the interests of others as being as important as “my” own.  If this is the case, the only way to this kind of mindset is through having the same mind, and the only mind in existence which thinks like this is Christ’s.

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