I love how Eugene Peterson translates the first few verses of Philippians 2.
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand (1-4).”
This all stands in clear opposition to the deepest currents in our culture, and is diametrically opposed to our current politics, political rhetoric, socio-economic exploitation, and insatiable appetite for power. It’s what Paul calls in our more standard translations “selfish ambition, conceit, looking out solely for our own interests.” Such are not of God’s kingdom. Such are not worthy of our heavenly citizenship, the apostle says a few chapters later.
And so I’m left wondering, for you, for me, for all of us in this complex community of the Spirit:
What are the sources of division and ideological purity that we need to critique or abandon for the sake of life-giving love?
What are the inch-deep social, economic, political narratives that are shaping your faith more than the Spirit of Jesus is?
What is it that is closing you off to others, to their experiences, to their voices, their perspectives their ideas?
What is reinforcing the “us vs them” narrative?
What are the sources – especially those dominant media sources – distracting us from building trust across deep differences within the community of faith?
Jesus said “cut it off!” These things that are hindering us from being trust-builders, promoters of deep fellowship in Christ, spirit-indwelt people in community. Cut them off.
Instead let’s be formed and empowered by God’s gracious, death-defeating, cynicism-crushing, deep trust-building, otherworldly love. There is such great joy that awaits! Jesus puts it this way: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:11-13)”
It’s all grace! The grace of “I don’t know.” The grace of changing your mind. The grace of “I could be wrong.” The grace of fearlessly and generously giving of our lives to others. The grace of needing to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Let’s share together in the joyful community of the Spirit, shall we?