S (Scripture): Philippians 1:27 Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel…29 God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. 30 You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing.
2:1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.
O (Observation): Paul knows what it means to be persecuted because of following Jesus. He has served Jesus ever since his Damascus Road experience. And now, Paul is teaching his followers what it means to follow Jesus…that following Jesus brings joy, but also persecution. The persecutions will not be experienced alone. Jesus shares those persecutions with his followers.
Getting along with other followers of Jesus will also be a challenge and will be a persecution in its own way, too. Each will have to suffer his or her own ego to take a back seat to the needs of the other. That means not only will they be called upon to experience joy with the world around them…they would have to figure out how to get along with other Christ followers!
A (Application): Following Jesus means suffering your wants and desires to have a lower priority than Jesus’ call to discipleship. This means thinking of yourself less (like CS Lewis’ famous quote), without thinking less of yourself.
In our world, we have quite the scarcity mindset. We think: “If someone else wins, I must be losing.” If someone else’s needs are met before mine, then I am weak and the other is strong.
This scarcity spills over into our spiritual beliefs. Can someone else who follows Christ believe something different than me about, say…the end times…or what it means to be “saved”…or how to baptize (sprinkle or immersion)…or whether I can hang out and support those of other faiths…or the LGBTQ community? To many, we cannot have different sets of standards and follow the same Christ. This is why we have over 30,000 denominations. We can’t get along!
I wonder what Paul would think?
I know what I think: we let the good and bad mingle together, doing the best we can to listen to God and respond. I hope this includes a wide variety of opinions about what it means to follow Christ, without making anyone feel like they can’t be in fellowship together. Let us bring joy to the world, because Jesus brought us joy in the first place.
P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see that winning and losing are not the goal…but instead, following you wherever you may lead us…and to do so with great joy. Amen.