July 20, 2014

United in love because we are united in Christ

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

Christians share the same citizenship (heaven), belong to the same household (God’s), and stand on the foundation of God’s truth revealed to the apostles and prophets. Christ is the cornerstone of that household and keeps it united and growing in increasing holiness.

This describes the church (but beware of imitations), those whose hearts have been changed and in whom Christ dwells. To us, the Bible constantly says we must draw all that we are and do from Jesus. Because of what He has done, we are to respond, living out His life in unselfish love for one another . . .

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

We can do this because we have the mind of Christ. He, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Exaltation came later, and that part is appealing, but humbling myself is never easy. It means “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling” yet remembering “it is God who works in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” It also means that I must, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that I may be blameless and innocent, a child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” and that I “shine as a light in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

In some situations, this might require that I be “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering” toward building the faith of others. (Philippians 2:1–18, some verses personalized) This means abandoning selfish desires. It means sacrifice and total obedience.

This also means no partiality. My husband works in a company with about sixty ethnic groups, some who cannot speak English. Our church is attended by folks from more than a dozen different countries. As Peter said in the early church, “. . . God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35) and Paul affirmed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Partiality is not just about nationality. Some might show it concerning wealth or how someone is dressed. James said, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man.” (James 2:1–6)

Instead, we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves” regardless of skin color, employment status, wardrobe, or any other distinction. We have no excuses either. For if we belong to Jesus, we have the mind of Christ — and with His thoughts possible, we can love like He did and offer up our lives as He did — so others might live also.

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