Friday, February 15, 2013

Unity and Humility

Today is the final day of week six, reading the Bible through together.  Our scripture today is  Exodus 28-31; Philippians 2.

Paul writes about unity in the body of Christ, which can only be accomplished through the humility of each and every member.  This morning, as I read through all five chapters, my spirit homed in on Phil 2:1-11, as a recipe for unity. 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Now, this would be a recipe for disaster, instead of unity, if it were not accomplished by every member of the church.  For example, if some people began to practice the kind of humility that puts other people before themselves while others maintained their own self-importance, the church would devolve into an organization where the majority of good honest folks serve the whims of the few who puff themselves up in imperious arrogance.  In order for Paul's recipe to work, everyone in the church needs to follow it.

There are a lot of reasons why some members of the church might think of themselves more highly than they ought.  One reason may be heredity.  In other words, their family has been in the church for generations, whereas others have only begun attending in recent years.  They may think they have more of a right to lead the church than others who may be equally gifted.  Others assert their importance because they see themselves as more spiritual than those other "worldly" people in the church.  They parade around with their pharisaical facades of self-righteousness, declaring to others what their spiritual giftings are (just in case you missed it) and implying that if you don't listen to them, then you must not be as godly as they.  Still others believe that their affluence or high status in society has purchased them the right to call the shots at church.  They believe that the more dollars you put in the collection plate, the more votes you should get in the business meeting.  

Jesus had had it up to here with religious leaders like these.  This is why he denounced the aristocrats, the spiritually smug, and those whose confidence lay in their genealogy.  This is why He modeled humility and lifted the lowly.  This is why He said that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  This is why He said that whoever wants to be a leader must first be slave of all.  Leadership isn't something you assert because you want to put yourself first.  Leadership is something you're given because you have proven yourself to be a servant.

Today, I ask you--what kind of leadership is your church following?  Is it bending to the will of the wealthy?  Is it listening to the subtle suggestions of the spiritually smug?  Is it following the "from-here's" just because they've "been here longer"?  Or, does your church emulate the lives of humble disciples who are committed to seeking the will of God?  

Paul reminds us that encouragement, comfort, participation, affection, sympathy, and unity can only come when every member of the church takes on the humility of Christ.  This means emptying yourself of ego and taking on the form of a servant.  It means becoming obedient, even to the point of self-sacrifice.  When we do this, not only will we have effective churches but we will also make the Lord's joy complete as He sees us taking on His very nature and truly being the Body of Christ.

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