November 7, 2009

Sibling spats

My mother used to distract us. Other parents yell. Some separate their children. Whatever the remedy, mothers and fathers all over the world do not like seeing or hearing their children fight. It is the subject in cartoons, but a distressing and universal issue in families.

The apostle Paul didn’t like seeing God’s children fight either. I’ve not done the math, but most of his letters to the churches (now become books in the New Testament) contain admonitions to get along. Fighting is easy.  Unity requires more effort. To the church in Philippi he wrote:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
The world knows that Christians ought not to fight. Jesus gave them the criteria for judging our genuineness when He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

As Paul indicated, we are able to “stand fast in one spirit” because we have the Holy Spirit. We can also think “with one mind” because we have been given the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). We also have one purpose, to “strive together for the faith.” Add this up and we have no excuse for fighting and many reasons for unity.

At the time Paul wrote Philippians, he was in prison for his faith. This church had been founded by him years earlier. He had visited them several times. Now he was letting them know what was happening in his life and encouraging them that he was okay, even joyful. His letter showed them that the God they served was able to sustain His people even in the most dire circumstances. He didn’t say it, but as I read Philippians, I hear the Holy Spirit saying, “If I can keep my child joyful in prison, what is bugging you so much that you have to fight with one another?”

Paul is more concerned about them. He wants them to represent Christ well. The closest he comes to mentioning his own needs is when he asks these Christians to add to the joy he is already experiencing. He says to them:

Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)
Again, he reminds them that all of them possess the love of God in Christ Jesus. They can have unity because they have the same purpose and the same mind of Christ. Because believers have one Spirit living within us, there is no reason for fighting and all the help we need to get along.


Karin said...

Just recently visited with our middle daughter. She has 4 children. Spats seem to be the norm and no one wants to be the one to give in. We had a lot of discussions during our time there. It's my prayer that some of what we talked about and what we modeled will make a difference. We do lift them in prayer and trust that the Lord will reveal to them how to live in love and unity.

LC said...

Amazing how people can say that human beings are basically good. They must not have children! We love them dearly, but certainly don't have to teach them how to want their own way or fight over things. I'm reading "Born Crucified" (4th time in 40 years) and a deeply convicted all over again about self needed to be always taken to the Cross. Only God can fix me.