In John 17, Jesus prays that his followers would be one. Anyone who takes even a cursory look at the church today would realize that those who claim to follow Jesus are not one. The body of Christ is divided into groups based on any number of doctrinal differences, and possibly an equal number number of practices. Churches that may agree on doctrine and practice are sometimes divided over relationship problems. I believe that part of the answer to the divisiveness in the church today is found in Philippians 2.
As different denominations and groups have grown up over the centuries, they have usually been built on distinctive doctrines or differences in organization. Dallas Willard calls these things vessels which hold the treasure which we have been given. The treasure is Jesus, and the problems come when our focus gets off the treasure and onto the vessel. Philippians 2 puts the focus back on the treasure and exhorts us to have the same mind as Christ. Paul bases this exhortation on the mercy, love and encouragement that we have in Christ through his Spirit.
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Paul tells us that Jesus did not consider his glory and position as something to be used for his own purposes.When he came to this earth, he didn't come with fanfare as a conquering king. He humbled himself and came as a helpless baby born to a working class couple from a nothing town. As Jesus went through his life, he didn't force the disciples to do what he said, nor did he lord it over the folks he came in contact with on a daily basis. At the end of his time here, he did the work of a common household slave and washed his disciples' feet! Then, this one that we rightly proclaim as King of kings allowed a kingdom of this world to put him to death. Unfortunately, this doesn't sound like some leaders in the church today.
Before Paul gives us the example of Christ, he exhorts the church to be like minded, having the same love. This comes from doing nothing for our own selfish ambition or empty conceit. Instead, we are to humbly value others above ourselves and seek to advance their interests rather than our own. This is exactly what Jesus did. He loved. He did the things he did for the glory of his Father and the good of others. He did nothing out of selfish ambition.
There are valid reasons to separate, but most of the divisiveness in the church today has been caused by losing our focus on the treasure and focusing on the vessel, whether that vessel is doctrine, practice, or our own heart. What would the church look like if we each sought to have the same mind as Christ, if each of us put others first, humbled ourselves, and did what we did for the benefit of others? I would love to see that.
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