I love connecting thoughts and ideas that don’t seem to have any obvious connections. My teaching style runs along that line and I have always referred to it as connecting the dots. I was teaching a group last night and got to help them make some connections. Leadership and love make connections in Philippians 2.
Paul says, Therefore… Because of all that is written in chapter 1 we are to give attention to what is about to be said. That includes the comments he made about being granted the opportunity to suffer for Christ.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose, 2:1-2.
He is imploring his flock to loving conduct. That conduct will make his joy complete. His encouragement to them is instructional to us. We will make the joy of our leaders complete when we conduct ourselves in the manner he describes. Does our day-to-day conduct match what Paul describes? We are to be of one mind. We are to be in agreement. Unity in mind and purpose can exist without uniformity in thought and action. We can understand with singleness of thought what we are to do but we may express that understanding in myriad ways.
Christians have forgiveness and salvation in common. That is grounds for unity in the body. God loves each of us in more ways than we can know. While it’s good and necessary to know His love and study the depths of it, we are sometimes in need of something tangible. We are like the child who was told how much God loved her. She said she didn’t feel loved. Her mom explained that God loved her through the Holy Spirit. Her response was, I want to be loved by somebody with skin on! (Out of the mouths of babes…)
Connections And Commitment
Paul’s next words describe how we are to be loved:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.
Now, turn on your imagination and view a church in which everyone regarded YOU as more important than themselves. WOW! Everyone there loves you, everyone there looks out for you, everyone there wants to hear what you have to say, and everyone there wants to know if there is anything they can do to help you. How often would you want to be around people like that? It isn’t likely you would ever want to leave. So what does it take to turn our world into one that looks like that? Paul’s next verse holds the answer:
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
It takes commitment and determination to be the one, for the Father’s sake, who treats everyone like that. It requires a commitment to embody our Father’s love. In other words, commit to being love with skin on. We can easily imagine and eagerly desire a church that ministers and exhibits love in the way Paul describes. But there’s a problem. Realizing that vision requires doing what is necessary to give that vision to everyone else. When each of us does that, all our needs are met and God has loved each of us with skin on.
Have you ever really contemplated the fact that the marvelous love God has to bestow on those around you may have to be dispensed through you? And can you imagine the joy in the hearts of God’s called-out leaders if the flock lived like this? These things don’t have to be wistful desires; they can be reality.
And just one more of these connections: Lord, let it begin in me. Asking the Lord to love through you is definitely going to challenge you as well as make you a better servant of Jesus Christ!