New International Version
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
It is possible that what Paul is saying is “do me a favour and stop arguing so that I don’t have to worry about you; I have enough to deal with, after all I am in prison and will possibly die here!” However, what we have read before and what we read next convinces me that for Paul these requests are all about preaching the gospel in word and action.
Yet again though it feels like Paul is expecting so much. Is it even possible that we never disagree or that we never act selfishly or think that our way is better than someone else’s way? My answer: no, those things are not yet possible. Whilst we live on earth we will get irritated and upset over the way other people do things. We will object to someone else’s attitude or tone of voice. We will want our own way and expect to have it. Hopefully these are not everyday occurrences but they will happen from time to time.
Yet Paul shows us where to place our focus, time and energies. We are to:
be encouraged because we are united in Christ,
Be comforted by Christ’s love for us,
Be in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and
Have tenderness and compassion.
This is our starting place – the security and love we find in Jesus – from there we can see others as fellow brothers and sisters who are also in that same place. This is also our final destination – being loved by and safe in Jesus – when we keep that in mind we can see others as fellow pilgrims. Do issues or disagreements sweep away these truths? No, but if we take our eyes of these truths then we can easily get caught up in unnecessary arguments and hurt each other. Loving unity takes effort because we so easily look at ourselves and not at Jesus. One of the last things Jesus prayed for was unity among believers. Let us see that prayer answered among us.
Lord Jesus, help me to know your love and the security I have in you. Holy Spirit give me the words and direct my actions so that I may honour you in other Christians. Father God, teach me to live in harmony with others that we might glorify your name. Amen