When my first son was born, he was born into a family waiting quite excitedly for him. The first grandchild on both sides of the family, this sweet baby was soon to be the the focus of the entire family. We made the rounds to their houses all, so they could look upon this new addition. And with my own mother gone, my mother-in-law and I bonded while sighing and fawning over the unmatchable cuteness of my baby. Where before there might have been awkward pauses or searches for a common interest, once my son arrived, there was always something and someone to talk about. There was shopping to do, walks to take, cuddling to enjoy, and pictures to capture it all. This is because we both had a common love of the same person.
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When we come together with other believers, we come with much to separate us. We are often different ages, different ethnicities, different economic groups, and with many more differences to be listed. Yet our bonding influence should be our love for one sweet baby who came into the world 2000 years ago and changed everything. We too should find common interest in our duplicated love. As believers, we are all in love with the same person, and this truth is integral to our relationship with one another.
A Challenging Love
Yet the church and those in the church are often the most difficult to love. Somehow in the midst of doctrinal differences and preferences, we forget that we all are serving the same King, that our hearts have been won over by the same Savior. And while there should be nothing more natural than joining ranks with those who love the same one that we love, Paul realizes that this will take intentionality to be successful. In this letter to believers in Phillipi, he states:
“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.” – Philippians 2:1
A United Common Love
He begins by reminding them of their love for Christ and His love for them. If God has worked in our hearts and if we have been changed by His love, then we can be motivated to take the next step in pursuing unity. Unity flows first and foremost from gratitude towards our God for all He has done for us. The next step is other-centered thinking:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
When my mother-in-law and I looked at my baby son, we were united in our desire to take care of him. Gone were our personal desires–all was for the baby. We were a team dedicated to the purpose of enjoying him and making sure every need he had was met. We delighted in his delight. As believers, we too must unite behind the common purpose of Christ’s delight. Working as a team, we must strive to bring His desires and wishes to pass because of our great love for Him. He not only provides the motivation, He also provides the example.
A Demonstrated Love
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 1:5-8
Jesus also acted out of his love–His love for the Father and His love for us. Because of this, He was able to give up his status and his rights, humbling himself in a way that is hard for us to imagine. Since we cannot truly understand what it was like for Jesus in His glorified spiritual state, we cannot imagine the humiliation of putting on decaying flesh. From beautiful, celestial visions, He is relegated to limited, desert-like conditions. From all the universe ready to obey His every word, to becoming the son of a poor family in a people group despised in all the world. Living in the beauty and unity of the trinitarian relationship, to being misunderstood, betrayed and abandoned. But it wasn’t for nothing.
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 1:9-11
A Rewarded Love
God does and will reward those who live for Him. In addition to the delight found in making Him happy, we will one day be invited to enjoy His honor. No one can deny the enjoyment of being praised for a job well done by our earthly bosses. Can we even envision what that might look like when we stand before the God of the universe?
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When we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ of every race, nationality, age group, and denomination, are we inspired like Christ to pursue them in love? Can we forget that it is uncomfortable and often unfair in our pursuit of Christ’s delight? Can we instead focus on what unites us, our common love for Christ and our common desire to please Him above all others? If we can, we will get to partake in a love that will transcend our personal ambitions and goals and that shines in reflection of the love shone for us so many years ago.