The Same Hymn Sheet
Gracious God, I stand before You: the beginning, the middle and the end. Your mercy endures forever.
Read PHILIPPIANS 2:1-4
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Unity amongst God’s people is God’s way, but sometimes it is hard to grasp. Paul highlights an important ingredient necessary if unity is to be reached (3-4).
“Singing from the same hymn sheet” has become a fairly common idiom, despite fears that it might offend atheists! It demonstrates a common understanding that, for any venture to succeed, all stakeholders must say the same things in public. Here, as Paul continues to spell out the implications of Christian citizenship, he pleads for something deeper than a PR exercise: he appeals for a unity of focus centered on Jesus, building up to the most majestic hymn ever sung in honor of Christ!
Paul employs all his rhetorical and pastoral skills to press home his passion for a harmony of purpose. Imagine his messenger speaking this out to the congregation at Philippi–and to your fellowship. The four “ifs” of verse 1 do not suggest uncertainty; instead they serve to emphasize the motives for unity. Paul draws our attention to felt experience, as we are strengthened and consoled in Jesus’ family, as we know his love, as we evidence the Spirit’s work, as we bask in compassion and kindness. In view of all these gifts, take note of Paul’s entreaty. Otherwise we have completely missed the point.
Paul’s call for harmony and humility is very familiar to Christians. Why is it so hard to achieve? Humility would certainly have been a counter-cultural concept in the Greco-Roman world, but for us today status envy is also alive and kicking. Varying principles and preferences in our churches too can be a real challenge to harmony. Many schisms and clashes are dressed up as theological or practical differences for extra force and validation. Yet at their root there is often individual insecurity or self-promotion. What would our collective witness sound like if we really took seriously the appeal to invest sacrificially in the lives of others to the detriment of our own advancement?
Paul mentions both the individual and communal blessings emanating from being united with Christ. What are they? In what ways can you contribute to unity in the Body of Christ?
Lord, may the voices raised in my church blend beautifully into a choir of love!