“Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Phil 2:2 NLT
This is one of those verses that you might skim over and, perhaps, nod in agreement while reading without truly dwelling on what’s stated. Any Christian would answer, “We’re supposed to love others,” when quizzed. But we all know that’s easier said than done. For the next few weeks, I’m going to delve into Philippians 2:2 and, hopefully, extract some practical insight.
“…agreeing wholeheartedly with each other,”
Let’s be real. When do we ever wholeheartedly agree with anyone? We can’t even agree on what’s the best soda (It’s Coca Cola, by the way) or the best movie genre (sci-fi/fantasy) or the best sports team (I’m more of a reader). How are we, as a church, supposed to be in agreement about the big things when we argue over trivial things?
I think that’s what this section of the verse actually references—arguing. This statement urges that we, Christians, be at peace with one another. I don’t believe it means we should all think the same, but, rather, not cause conflict with our opinions.
“Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone.” Rom 12:18 NLT
The NIV translates this way, “as far as it depends on you…” We can’t control other people, especially nonbelievers, but these verses make it clear we should control our reactions. First, ask yourself if the offense is worth the strife it will cause. More often than not, I bet the answer is no. We all declare we don’t want drama. However, a drama-free life starts with choosing not to be upset.
If the offense is worth the strife, settle things quickly. Go to that person and clear the air. Don’t let it fester. The longer anger sits, the more it affects you, those around you, and sometimes the whole congregation (Heb 12:15). God considers peace so important, he doesn’t want us to approach him in worship until the conflict is settled.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matt 5:23,24
Reconcile generally means to change thoroughly, but New Oxford American Dictionary also provides a bookkeeping definition: make one account consistent with another. I love this definition because sometimes it seems like we have a church account and a personal life account for our behavior. We’re a different person in the world than we are in our congregation. But that lifestyle doesn’t really work. How can we worship our Savior, who forgave us all our sins, on Sunday while stewing over an argument that happened with a coworker on Friday? To give the six5mom paraphrase of the above verse, get your accounts in balance before entering God’s house.
But what if I’m in the right? That question hits the nail on the head. We can choose not to take offense, and we can correct the offenses we make to others. But what if we’ve done nothing wrong, and someone is offended? What then? In that case, we need to follow Christ as our example. Christ, who was without sin, bore our sin. Even though he was righteous, he took our punishment.
Sometimes we need to lay down our rightness for the sake of peace. Apologize when we’ve done nothing wrong. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Another beautiful example of sacrificing being right for the sake of peace comes from Acts 16. The entire chapter of Acts 15 recounts an argument among the leadership of Jewish believers as to whether gentile believers should be circumcised. Paul led the charge against such a requirement. At the end of the chapter, the issue was settled. They realized circumcision was not necessary for salvation or worship of Christ. Then three verses later, Timothy sacrifices his rightness and his body for the sake of other believers.
“…In deference to the Jews of the area, he (Paul) arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.” Acts 16:3
Just three verses after Paul successfully argued that circumcision was not necessary for a gentile believer, he arranges Timothy’s circumcision. Timothy, knowing he was in right standing with Christ without that requirement, agreed to this painful and personal operation. Why? For the sake of peace with other Christians.
While we are urged to be at peace with all men, Philippians 2:2 directs its command at the Church. Unless the argument is about sin or someone’s health and well-being, Christians should be willing to lay down their rightness for the sake of peace among the congregation. I fail miserably at this. If I haven’t done anything wrong, the last thing I want to do is repent. However, in some circumstances, peace trumps my pride. Repentance ends conflict and brings the church back into wholehearted agreement.
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” Ps 133:1