A theme interpretation written by Matt DeBall for the 2016 Mission Offering
“Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
The Apostle Paul was obsessed with unity. Ever since his perspective was changed from “the Jews are the chosen people” to “all people are welcome in God’s family,” he was compelled to bring all people to the table of Christian fellowship.
It doesn’t require much effort to find the motivation of Paul’s passion for Christian community. Jesus, too, was all about sticking together in God’s family. Before Jesus was arrested, he prayed for his disciples and for us (those who would believe because of their message): “that they may be one” (John 17:21). The unity that Jes us experienced with God the Creator and the Holy Spirit was the same unity he prayed over his disciples and all who would follow them. With the inspiration of Jesus, Paul’s obsession seems well founded and worthy of continuing.
In his letter to the Philippians, we hear Paul at it again. With the declared hope that th e believers at Philippi would be of one mind, we hear echoes of Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Signs of God’s love include living at peace with all sisters and brothers, and striving to be of one mind and mission. With his words, Paul paints beautiful pictures of what it looks like for the church to be faithful in loving God and loving others.
Paul’s words to the Philippians, however, are not solely to give us warm and fuzzy feelings about loving one another. Paul was calling the believers at Philippi to stick together through all situations and struggles of life. We all seek to love others without question until we realize how much it costs. Striving to walk with people through dark valleys and over in timidating mountains really tests the depth of our love and faith. Nonetheless, these are the roads to which God has called us to walk together “side by side.”
The Mission Offering highlights the international partners of the Church of the Brethren. As we partner with our sisters and brothers in places like Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nigeria, and South Sudan, there is much opportunity for mutual encouragement and strengthening of faith. Though how we minister within communities may look rather different, God’s call to all is share the love and hope of Jesus in all places.
As we walk with our sisters and brothers around the world, the words of Paul to the Philippians can still guide us today. Whether we are gathered together or far apart, the evidence of God’s love will be known through the unity we share. Though we may be nations and even oceans apart, we share an unbreakable bond within God’s family. Being held together by God’s love and caught up with what the Holy Spirit is doing, we can persevere and stand together in faith.