The conversation before and after our staff Word and Prayer time this morning centered around the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, mainly on how much of a shot Abilene Christian University has against Kentucky. We wondered aloud about the spread. Somebody joked that there’s probably not a line on the game because it’s a Church of Christ school. I replied that ACU probably thinks they’re the only ones going to the tournament.
The spread is 22 points. I’m taking ACU and the points. George is taking Kentucky.
From the very moment each of us is born, we all demand that other people meet our personal needs. We cry until Mom feeds us or changes our diaper. We misbehave until Dad drops what he’s doing and gives us his full attention. As we get older, we demand the same privileges or better privileges than our siblings when we’re forced to share a bedroom or the backseat of the car. And when we grow up, we fight for the better position at work, we negotiate for the bigger house, we argue about driving the nicest car, and we desire to take the most luxurious vacation. We lie and cheat and steal to win an elected office, to gain a financial advantage, and to get our kids into the most prestigious university. We all spend a great deal of our lives asserting our rights and declaring our demands, sometimes even at the expense of others. And what starts out as a natural survival instinct turns into a steady expression of our fallen sinful nature. We put our desires ahead of the needs of others.
That happens a lot even in church. Maybe you already know that.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:1-4
Is this even possible?
Absolutely! Yes, we can all do this! All of us! Because we recognize the realities. There is nothing in this world or in the next more certain than the realities we all share in Christ. The Scriptures don’t guess at this, they don’t present this as ‘maybe’ or ‘possibly.’ This is hard-core fact. This is the unquestionable reality for everybody in your church.
We are united with Christ. We are one with the holy Son of God. We are continuously encouraged because we belong to God’s family in Christ, with Christ. We cannot be separated from him — from Jesus — or from our unity with everybody who is also in Christ. We’re not alone, we’re together right now with the eternal Messiah and everybody who calls him Lord.
We have comfort from his love. We know we are loved by God in Christ. And we know nothing can separate us from that love — not death or life, not angels or demons, not the present or the future, not any powers, not height or depth, or anything else in all creation can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He loves you. He loves me. He loves everybody in your church unconditionally. That’s the reality. It’s real.
We have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The original Greek word here in koinonia. Communion with the Spirit; sharing, community, participation; fellowship with God’s Spirit. God lives inside each one of us by his Spirit. Don’t ask me how; I have no idea. But it’s real. He lives in us. And that bonds us to each other. We see each other as indwelled by the same Spirit of God who indwells me. And that common sharing in the Spirit holds us together. We are all baptized by the one Spirit into one body and we’re all given the same Spirit to drink.
And we all have tenderness and compassion, these natural human emotions of affection and sympathy. If you have any tenderness and compassion, Paul writes, any kindness and goodness, if you’re not a jerk. If you’re breathing, he says, if you’re feeling anything at all, if you have a heartbeat, a pulse, if you’re human…
Paul points us to the solid realities. He doesn’t give us shallow advice or superficial instructions. No, he opens our eyes to the right-now realities or who we are together in Christ. He points us to the heavenly truth that by God’s will and God’s Word and God’s work, we are one. We are together. As Christians, this is the air we breathe, the water we swim in. This is the lens through which we look at our church family as a whole and how we see each other individually. We recognize together these realities as God’s holy will for us and make them our priority.