Unity, Humility, and the Mind of Christ
I gave this message last night in Awesome Tuesdays, a fellowship group for singles. The message is on unity, humility, and the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11). It’s quite a while since I last visited this group (the last one is December 2009). So I was blessed to see that the group is still growing. And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Marc Ruiz, Kuja Lee, and the rest of the Awesome Tuesdays team for the opportunity to serve with them. Anyway…
Purposes for Writing the Philippians
Paul had a several purposes for writing the letter. Let me give three of them. First, he wanted to thank the Philippians for their gift to him (4:10-18). Second, he wanted to inform them about his circumstances at Rome (1:12-26). Lastly, he wanted to exhort them to unity (2:1-2; 4:2).
Exhortation to Unity
We see Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians for unity in verses 1-2. Paul urged them to be of one mind, to have the same love, to be in full accord, and to be of the same mind (v.2). Clearly, this was a call to unity.
But why did he call the Philippians to unity? It is because the church in Philippi, a true and healthy one, is not excused from the dangers of disunity or discord. And so he addresses the issue even in other parts of the epistle:
27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27, emphasis added)
2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2, emphasis added)
Psalm 133:1 says:
1Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Humility is Pre-Requisite to Unity
The apostle Paul was urging the Philippians to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit.” The word rivalry (Eritheia) here means “a desire to put one’s self forward.” Moreover, it is a “partisan and fractious spirit.” Conceit (Kenodoxia), on the other hand, means “vain glory or empty pride.” Both rivalry and conceit are manifestations of pride. And both create disunity.
Paul continues, “but in humility…” It is fitting that the apostle includes “in humility,” since rivalry and conceit are forms of pride.
So why humility? Obviously, it is the counterpart of pride. But going deeper, the apostle encourages humility because without it, the Philippians cannot “count others more significant than [themselves].” Without humility, they cannot look past their own interests and unto others’ interests. And without humility and selflessness, there will be no unity. Humility, then, is a pre-requisite to unity.
James and John, Putting Themselves Forward
At this point, I can’t help but point you to an event in Jesus’ life. Let’s turn to Mark 10:34-45.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, requested that they be seated at the right and left hands of Jesus, in His glory (v.37). Isn’t this putting themselves forward?
The other disciples heard about this, and were indignant towards the brothers (v.41). Isn’t this fractiousness, which started because of James and John’s agenda to put themselves forward?
But the Lord Jesus gently rebuked his loved ones. They shouldn’t follow the model of the Gentiles (vv.42-43a):
43bBut whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Isn’t this humility (For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…)? And selflessness (…and to give his life as a ransom for many)?
The Mind of Christ
Since we are talking about humility, it is interesting to note Jesus’ teachings about it. He frequently teaches:
23Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12; see also Luke 14:11, 18:14)
Didn’t we see this in the life of Christ? For Philippians 2:6-11 tells about Jesus:
6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Emphases added)
Jesus was “in the form of God.” He is the Son of God. He is one of the Trinity. He is God! Yet, He “did not count equality with God.” I understand Paul when he found this too difficult “a thing to be grasped.” His mind simply cannot comprehend this deep truth.
And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus, who was everything, made himself nothing. He, who was Master, took the form of a servant. He, who was divine, put on humanity. And He humbled himself by being obedient through dying on a cross––the most horrible form of death in Jesus’ time. God hung on the cross? All of this can’t be possible without humility.
But it doesn’t end there. Jesus, in His humility, went to the lowest, and in His exaltation, went to the highest.
Jesus lived out his teaching. He is our example and motivation of humility. We are called to have the mind of Christ (v.5).
Remember this: The mind of Christ is our motivation for humility; humility is the pre-requisite to unity.
How (Dis) Unity and (Non) Humility was Displayed in my Life
When I was in my fourth year of college, I had a subject which required me to be a part of a project team. We were 5 in the group, and I was the leader. Being the leader of the group, I tend to be pushy and over-directive. I wanted to, unfortunately and unconsciously, boss around. I’m the leader, right?
A few days before a submission of a project, I was surprised that three of my groupmates weren’t a part of my group anymore. Without my knowledge the three had talked to our professor about leaving the group, and the professor consented. So when I asked one of them why they left the group, she simply answered me, “You’re bossy!” I was shocked! Humbled, I asked for their forgiveness.
It seems that my desire to push my own agenda forward, to boss around and “lord it over them”, did not work. My pride caused disunity.
It’s my prayer that you don’t commit the same mistake.
Are you experiencing disunity in any circles of your life? (At home, school, office, or church). Do you contribute to this disunity?
Are you so concerned with putting yourself forward, to the point of creating disunity and overlooking others?
Are you struggling with pride? How will you practice humility in your daily life? In what concrete ways can you practice “looking out for the others’ interests”?