This week I read in the news that Coles has started rolling out body camera’s for staff in some of its stores to combat theft and abuse of their employees. It is now common in Mackay to see a sign as you walk into a store, requesting that you treat store personnel with respect. I also heard recently that verbal and physical abuse is on the rise in classrooms of local public schools. It is plain to see that our community is shaking, if not crumbling.
How do you stand firm in showing kindness and gentleness in such an environment?
The Desire For Experiencing Deep Love
Something I believe we all desire is to have relationships of deep and enduring love. It’s nice to be shown random acts of kindness by strangers, but it’s not the same as a spouse who perseveres in showing love, a long time friend whose affection stands the test of time or the church family member who is there at your side through thick and thin.
How do we find ourselves in relationships characterised by deep and enduring love?
The Desire For Experiencing Deep Joy
Our community is struggling to find joy. Levels of youth anxiety and depression are on the rise. It’s been known for many years that increasing affluence is not leading to increasing levels of happiness. And now people are experiencing higher levels of fear and uncertainty.
What’s interesting to observe as we open the book of Philippians and turn up the early verses of chapter 4, is the fact that Paul’s joy in the Lord, was deeply tied to his relationships with people.
‘My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown’ (Philippians 4:1)
If we are seeing joy eroded and the relationships that bring that joy crumbling, how do we put the pieces back together?
Putting the Pieces Back Together
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that our joy is to be found first and foremost in the Lord. His passion is to know Jesus, because he knows that in this relationship, deep joy will flow:
‘I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.’
The way Paul phrases his desire in these verses is quite confronting. He doesn’t just want to know power in Jesus, but he wants to share suffering and hardship, even onto the point of death. Why would he desire those things?
I take it that Paul had got to know Jesus story well enough, to understand that it is not just a story of power and glory. It was that, but it was a story that also passed through deep suffering and pain. There was a certain way of thinking about things that Jesus had, that had now started to shape Paul, and now led to the joy that Paul experienced.
‘have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2:5b-8)
Jesus didn’t spend his time and energy questioning his role in God’s plans, but he faithfully did his part, trusting God the Father to do the part he had promised, to raise Jesus from the dead.
If we pursue ‘knowing Christ’ like Paul did, how might it shape our relationship?
Putting Relationships Back Together
‘I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.’ (Philippians 4:2)
If we pursue knowing Christ as our highest goal, then there is a certain mindset that we will take on. This mindset ought to bring us into unity with other believers in Jesus.
Mindset is obviously a bit of a buzz word these days. We’re told to have a positive mindset to difficult situations that we face. But how might a mindset, shaped by the pursuit of Christ, shape the way we respond to others? Maybe some examples are helpful:
Philippians 1:7 - As Paul thinks about the Philippians he has great confidence that God will finish his work in them. He says that it is right for him to feel (lit. think) this way, because they are in his heart. He has confidence that as he does his part in standing for Christ by God’s strength, they too will stand for Christ with that same strength. This positive mindset towards others is reflected later in the letter towards Timothy, Epaphroditus (Phil 2:19-30) and the Philippians in general (Phil 4:10ff).
Philippians 1:18 - Of course, not everyone will have the right thoughts or attitudes. Paul picks up the example of those who are preaching Christ but actually doing it for the wrong motive. They are jealous of Paul’s success and act to get ahead of Paul. Yet Paul with his changed mindset can see that the overall outcome of their efforts is for the good, and so cheers them on regardless of their wrong attitude towards him.
Philippians 3:2, 18-19 - Yet this does not mean that Paul cheers everyone on regardless. There is a point where people are actually being led away from Christ, either through people’s confidence in their own righteousness or through people’s own evil desires. Paul does not mince his words when it comes to those who have departed from Christ Jesus nor would he expect others mince their words if he was departing from Christ.
Philippians 3:15-16 - But overall Paul allows a great deal of freedom for people to walk out their walk with Jesus. He is slow to judge and gives room for people to walk out their own walk with Jesus.
As you think about someone you’re having a hard time with at the moment, what would it look like to be of the same mind of them in the Lord? Do you need to give them more space? Do you need to cheer them on? Or do you need to warn them because they are straying from Christ?
Putting Relationships Back Together, Together
The final thing we notice in the early verses of Philippians 4 is that sometimes we need help from other believers to display the mind of Christ towards one another:
‘Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.’ (Philippians 4:3)
Where our own sense of self-righteousness or desire for advancement or the pull of the pleasures of this world starts taking hold of us and affecting the way we relate to one another, we may need a third party involved to call us back to our senses. To call us back to seeing Christ Jesus. Or we may need to be that third part to others. We are to help one another to come to the same mind in the Lord, trusting that though we might not agree about every issue, there will be a way to think in a unified manner about these differences of opinion, in a way that honours Christ.
Let us therefore seek to know Christ and to take on his attitude towards the relationships we engage with day to day. It will be in the rough and tumble of these relationships that the joy of the Lord will be found.
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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