- Date: May 29, 2022
- Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
- Free Resource: Praying in One Accord (Cross+Gen Education, NL)
- Unit Theme (May 15—June 5): Living in Hope
- The Point: God’s grace is given, not earned.
Is Christian unity even possible? Maybe it is, but it isn’t easy. Paul encourages Christians to find unity through following Jesus’ example of humility.
Connections to Last Week’s Passage
Paul is hopeful, but he is still imprisoned in today’s Scripture reading. In last week’s Narrative Lectionary passage, we read the opening chapter of Paul’s (and Timothy’s) letter to the church in Philippi. There, we learn that Paul and Timothy have been jailed. We also encounter many of the letter’s themes that continue in this week’s passage: joy, love, and unity.
Unity Means Working Together
In the first chapter of Philippians, we read the awkward “I/we” format of the letter. Although opening with a collective salutation from both Paul and Timothy, the letter quickly switches to the first-person singular: I. As we continue in Philippians this week, however, we must remind ourselves (and our participants) that Paul rarely worked alone. The Letter of Philippians is about ministry as a team.
What Does Christian Unity Look Like?
Disunity is everywhere in the church today. The Orthodox Church is divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine and the United Methodist Church is splitting over welcoming LGBTQ people. I’m sure you can name other examples of Christian division in the news. Paul wants the church to be united, but, in a divided world, how does that happen? Some might think that church unity is about thinking similarly as verse two suggests. Others might argue that Christian unity is grounded in our actions for the good of others as verses three and four might lead us to believe. I think Paul would say yes to the importance of both acting and thinking alike!
The Mind of Christ
In today’s passage, Paul tells the Philippian church to strive toward the mind of Christ (v. 5), which led Jesus to model a life of extreme humility and service. Put differently, we might say that how we live affects how we think and how we think affects how we live. Instead of separating these two ideas, how can we remember the connection between our acting and thinking? Games like The Chicken or the Egg remind players that we often obsess over what comes first, but that’s missing the point. The Christian life invites us all to recognize how all of our living and believing are connected.
Discipleship Means Imitating Jesus
In unity and love, Paul wants us to imitate Jesus, but how do we know if we’re following Jesus’ example? The core of our passage is dedicated to the ancient Christ hymn describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (vv. 5-11). In this ancient song of praise, Jesus’ humility is emphasized. Even if we cannot yet think alike, we can all follow Jesus’ example of humility—and perhaps find our connection there.
Hymns, Old and New
As this passage reminds us, Christians have long used music to teach and celebrate our faith. What kinds of songs and instruments do you use in worship at your church? Take a closer look at the ancient lyrics in verses five to eleven. How is this Christ hymn similar to hymns in your hymnal or songs that you sing in worship services?
God Empowers Us to Do Good
Ultimately, Christians can follow Jesus’ example of selfless service and sacrifice because God enables us to do so (v. 13). When we understand that even our good actions are gifts from God, we can give thanks for that freedom, rather than view our service as signs of superiority.
We each must “work out [our] own salvation” (v. 12) throughout our lives as Jesus-followers. I pray that in the spirit of Jesus’ humility, you’ll continue to wrestle with the mystery of what God’s love for you means and looks like in your ministry context.
Rev. Billy Kluttz serves as Associate Pastor at Govans Presbyterian Church (USA) in Baltimore, Maryland where he focuses on children and family ministries, community engagement, and communications. He is also the co-host of the TLDR Bible Show, a humorous Bible summary and discussion podcast, and a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free activity download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download “Praying in One Accord” from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL) curriculum, though this can be used with many ages in many contexts!