5 August 2021Philippians 2: 1-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. (v. 5)
It is difficult to put into words the importance of this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is important not only for what it tells us, but also for what it preserves for us. Verses 6-11 are possibly not Paul’s own words, but his reproduction of one of the earliest hymns or creeds of the young church: ‘A Song of Christ’s Glory’. It seems that Paul includes this as a reminder to the church in Philippi of a hymn they would know. Much in the same way that I might quote a hymn to a congregation to remind them of theology we need to continue to put into practice. It’s a hymn about God coming to us as a human being in Jesus, who followed his calling to the ultimate extreme – death – and then being vindicated and glorified by God the Father as the true Lord over all things. We might say it is the gospel story in a nutshell. You might think of plenty of hymns it reminds you of: And can it be (StF 345), At the name of Jesus (StF 317), Light of the World (StF 175), Glory be to God on high (StF 199), and From heaven you came (Servant King) (StF 272) to name just a handful. This song inspired them all.
There is much to meditate on and reflect on in the hymn, and much to praise God for – about all that Jesus is, has done for us and will achieve in the future. But we must also remember that Paul was quoting this in his letter to remind the church to put its theology into practice.
We don’t know precisely what divisions or arguments there were in Philippi, but it’s safe to say that all churches have them. It is human nature to have power struggles and for certain factions to want things their own way – because it can be a struggle to listen, to empathise, to work towards mutual understanding, and to live together with contradictory convictions. For the Early Church, the vast differences between the Jewish and Gentile Christians was one of the main stress-points, explored in many of Paul’s letters. But one of his main themes is that we are all one in Christ (e.g. Galatians 3:28). When Paul says “be of the same mind” (verse 2), I’m sure he doesn’t mean we have to somehow abandon our individual understandings and all think exactly the same, and nor does he mean we should separate if we differ, but rather that our regard for one another, our love and humility should rise above any arrogant assumption that “we know best”. He points us to the Servant King as our example – to Jesus, who came even for those who disagreed with him, and was willing to die for them, to try to bring all together under God. It is this mind – the mind of Christ – that we are to share. And that sometimes means making sacrifices.
- What are the current disagreements or divisions in your church? What might you be able to do to help your fellow Christians work together in greater harmony?
- The call to serve one another emanates from this passage. A Methodist Way of Life encourages us to be committed to service: helping people in our communities and beyond, caring for creation and all God’s gifts. We are asked:
- How are you seeking to serve others?
- How are you caring for God’s creation?
- How are you using God’s gifts (including your financial resources)?