The Life Project: Philippians
Do you remember the seagulls in the movie “Finding Nemo”? Their role in the movie
was insignificant to say the least but their high pitched cry of “MINE...MINE...MINE...”
will probably be stuck in my brain forever. I believe the reason why those crazy cartoon seagulls made such a big impact in me was the fact that I could see myself, others and even the church in those annoying, self centered birds. As much as I hate it, there are a lot of times that I am all about me. What I want, what I feel, where I am hurt, where I am annoyed, what I think is important or what I think is trivial. The truth is if I am not careful, I have the tendency to allow my life revolve around ME. To mindlessly shout out “MINE” in every circumstance of life. This selfishness is a dangerous and lonely place to exist. If we operate this way it will not be long until we are surrounded by one fight after another. We will have nothing that resembles a real relationship.
The Apostle Paul writes to a church in Philippi that has caught a case of the “mines”.
Philippi was a small, struggling church that faced the constant threat of persecution and had lost much for the the sake of the Gospel. At some point they became tired of one another, tired at looking at the same faces, dealing with the same issues over and over again. At first I am sure it was minor annoyances but soon there was full scale chaos within the church. Men holding grudges. Women spreading rumors and gossip.
Families divided by petty rivalries and disagreements. All in the name of “MINE!!!”
The ApostlePaul hears of the trouble from a jail cell in Rome awaiting a verdict in his trial. He sits in a darkened cell and writes directly to the issues of the “me centered” church in Philippi. In the first two chapters of his letter he is very clear and severe. If the church is going to survive they MUST come together. We hear the words of Jesus echoing throughout the Apostles words, “a house divided against itself WILL fall. The church could no longer afford to ignore her fatal flaw. Changes were in order.
The book of Philippians has a lot to say about Christian unity. The Apostle Paul very
clearly tells this small struggling church that unity is key for them to withstand the
onslaught of forces hostile to the gospel of Christ, for the church to maintain a credible witness to an unbelieving world and above all to be found blameless and pure when we stand before Christ. Let’s take a look at these three truths.
First, when the church fails to stand united it takes it’s focus off of the calling of the great commission and begins to focus on petty, small, “me” things. We must look like sitting ducks to the enemy when we respond this way. Bickering and fighting instead of praying and contending for a hurting and lost world. Gossiping and tearing down others instead of speaking words of life and encouragement. The moment we divide ourselves, the moment we begin defending the things we believe are “mine” is the very moment we stop being the church and become a useless, dysfunctional mess! The only way we can accomplish the calling and purposes of God among us is together. Period.
Second, Paul tells the Philippians that their bickering and selfishness have completely
ruined any witness they might have in their community, among their families and even
within the church. How many times have you heard someone look at the people inside a
church and say, “if this is how they act I want nothing to do with the church”? A church united is a church with a powerful witness of community. When the church is divided we are a poor reflection of Christ to the desperate world around us.
Third, Paul warns the Philippians that one day they will stand before God and account
for the lives they lived and the way they treated one another. One of the most basic
commands of Christ to the church was to love one another with the love of God. How
are we doing with that command? What will Jesus say about our relationships with one
another inside our church? Will we hear “well done!” or “you could have done so much
more!”? The way we treat one another is an act of worship to God. What are you
offering to him?
Philippians challenges us to be a church united, to put away selfish thinking and serve
the church around us. My prayer today is that my life will be a little less marked by the word “mine” and a lot more empowered to love and serve the family of Christ that I have been given. As Paul says in chapter 2 verse 14 and 15 “Do everything without
grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God
without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like
stars in the sky.” Amen.