By Mike Willis
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5). As Christians, we need to imitate the example of Jesus Christ in His attitudes and dispositions. Many of the problems of internal unity in local congregations are not doctrinally related; they are caused by brethren who have the wrong attitudes toward one another. Let us consider some of the attitudes which are necessary for unity.
Attitudes Necessary For Unity
1. Lowliness of mind. Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). The lowliness of mind which is here commanded is not a mind which wallows in moral filth; rather it is humility. The opposite to lowliness of mind is high-mindedness, arrogance, or pride. In the beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
Many problems are created in local congregations by arrogant and proud men who are self-willed. They think that their ideas are the best; they think their way of doing something is the only way in which it can be done. If they do not get their way, they act like a spoiled child who pouts, throws a temper tantrum, or runs off somewhere else.
Humility will enable us “to esteem other better than themselves.” One man said, “There is a little good in the worst of us and a little bad in the best of us.” In a congregation, there are always brethren and sisters with strengths and weaknesses of character. I should look for the strong points in the other’s character, remembering the weaknesses in my own. I can improve myself by imitating the strengths in the character of others. One may provide me a good example in showing hospitality; another may demonstrate kindness and gentleness; another may emphasize the necessity of a disciplined fife; another may be strong in assisting those who need help; another may be nearly expert in biblical knowledge. I can profit from associating with each of these my brethren, genuinely esteeming him better than myself.
2. Unselfishness. Another attitude necessary for internal unity is unselfish conduct. Paul wrote, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). He was not teaching me to covet the material possessions, of my brother. Rather, he was teaching me to be concerned about what is best for him.
If every member of the church had this attitude and disposition, my own self-interests would be better served than when I am the only one interested in my own welfare. If every member of the church is looking out for the best interests of the other members, rather than in his own best interests, every member will be concerned about every other member. In a congregation of 100 members, 99 will be looking out for my best interests. How much better that will be for me than if I alone am looking out for my self-interests, and 99 others are unconcerned about my interests.
Furthermore, when 100 people are solely concerned about their own self-interests, these self-interests lead in different directions. My self-interests will conflict with another’s self-interests. Internal division and conflict will occur. Paul’s solution is for me to be concerned about you and you to be concerned about me.
Jesus provided us the best example. Paul described His unselfish conduct:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phi. 2:5-8).
Jesus left the glories of heaven to become a man. There is nothing that men give up which compares to the self-abnegation and self-sacrifice of Jesus who left the glories of being in the form of God to become a man.
He put the interests of man above His own interests. Had Jesus only been interested in Himself, He would have stayed in heaven. Had He only been interested in Himself, He would have prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, let this cup pass from me; let my will be done, not thine.” That was not His prayer, however, because He placed the interests of each of us above His own self-interests.
Each of us needs to learn to give to the point that we can put others’ needs above our needs. In the marriage relationship, the husband must learn to put the needs of his wife above his own; the wife should place the interests of her husband above her own. This will make a happier home than one in which both are competing to see who can spend the most money on himself, who gets his way, and who serves the other.
In the local church, I should be willing to be as pliable as possible in the realm of judgment to promote the peace and harmony of the church. Whether services begin at 10:00 or 9:45 a.m., whether we meet on Wednesday or Thursday evening, whether we invite one faithful evangelist or another to hold our gospel meeting, and many other judgmental decisions should not be areas which disrupt the unity of the church. We can work together to promote the kingdom of God without contention and strife.
The Lord wants us to be lights in the midst of spiritual darkness (Phil. 2:15). Undoubtedly, we are living in an age of spiritual darkness. Men are denying the existence of God and trying to eliminate any recognition and worship of Him in schools, courts, Congress, or any other public place. Men are scornfully mocking the idea of sin, leaving the impression that sinful behavior is acceptable. In the midst of this darkness, Christians should shine like a beacon.
However, the glow is sometimes nearly extinguished by our own inabilities to get along with each other. Our differences are frequently not doctrinal but attitudinal. Because of this, let each of us examine himself to be sure that his attitudes are Christ-like.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 24, pp. 738, 756
December 20, 1984