We talked about the physical and spiritual toll loneliness inflicts on us as people. We talked about how we spend our time trying to find happiness, but that we only find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into isolation and darkness. (Want to catch up? Read part one here)
The question remains: How can we find joy together? Even though we’re taught to talk over one another?
Paul begins the conversation on conversation
Paul starts off by saying, “listen, you all have professed a relationship with Christ. You all have been impacted by his work in your life, and so, with that understanding I plead of you….’If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.’” (The message)
Agree with each other. Love each other. Be deep spirited friends.
What’s Paul talking about here?
We’re told to be like-minded.
This Biblical understanding of like-mindedness is a mindset, an attitude or a life-choice. It’s not an intellectual activity.
So often, we choose to run with, or associate with, people who share all the same beliefs and lifestyle choices as us. It’s easy, right? They don’t push us into places of discomfort. We usually don’t have to defend our beliefs, or we don’t have to be stretched by theirs. We can spend our time talking about things we agree with, rather than things we disagree with.
But when we do this, when we choose to only be with those who are like us, we miss out on so many opportunities to grow and develop as human beings. The thing is this…our culture tells us that we must all agree on everything. That a person who is different is to be feared.
Are you a different political persuasion than I am? I am to fear you.
Are you a different religion? I am to fear you.
Are you a different sexual orientation? I am to fear you.
But this isn’t what Paul is telling us to do. He says, no, stop focusing on trying to match up our intellectual opinions. Stop huddling in same minded groups.
Instead, he says, before we worry about theology. Before we worry about politics. Before we worry about any other division, let us, instead first find commonality in Christ.
Let’s choose to make that our singular point of agreement. The rest, he says, are details.
Now, it must be said, that this is not as easy as it looks. Right?
But he doesn’t leave it at this…he moves on to say…
We’re told to have the same love that Christ modeled for us.
The word for love in this passage is the word agape.
Agape love means endless and boundless love. A love without borders. A love without conditions. A love without expectation of return.
Agape is a love that says, I disagree with you, I don’t understand you, but you are my brother or you are my sister and I will choose to not let my disagreements and personal conditions determine your worth.
Our culture teaches us a different message, doesn’t it?
It demonstrates the message that, if I don’t like what you say, I’ll talk over you. If you don’t agree with me, I will refuse to listen to you.
Your words, your worth, are tied to how closely our politics or religious beliefs alight.
We see this on both sides of the political isle.
We see Republicans do this…
We see Democrats do this…
We must refuse, at all costs, to be caught up in this agression towards others.
After all, we are a people called to love our enemies, and serve those we disagree with.
This can only happen through Agape love.
Agape love lets others speak. Agape love listens.
Agape love refuses to stereotype. Agape love seeks to break down barriers.
Agape love refuses to let go of forgiveness. Agape love refuses to hold grudges.
Agape love remembers it’s all about Christ. Agape love begins and ends with Christ.
Agape l love says that I will love you as I see Christ love me, us, the church, the world.
How are we supposed to do this?
It seems impossible, right?
Paul tells the church in Philippi, if they want to find contentment, peace and joy, they do two things.
The word used for vanity here is kenodoxia, which means: a state of pride which is without basis or justification – ’empty pride, cheap pride, vain pride.’
We see this all over the place, don’t we?
One of the most articulate explorations of this search was done by Zilla van den Born. This Dutch student faked a trip to S. E. Asia in order to show us how easy it is to create and manipulate how others see us.
We are all guilty of this. We take photos of a meal, a beautiful building, or a child’s smile. We place a filter on it, and post to Instagram. In this, we attempt to show ourselves as more popular, more happy, more beautiful, more ( fill in the blank ) than we actually are.
We want to be the ones others are longing to be.
Someone along the way, in these blind pursuits towards creating our own versions truth and happiness, we will find that we’re missing out on the moments of true happiness all around us! The kind of happiness you can’t fake. The happiness you can’t re-create.
Resist blind ambition.
It’s easy, right? To find ourselves overwhelmed with a desire to accumulate more and more.
To build your wealth.
To build your clout.
To build your reputation.
To build your career.
To build your influence.
We must remember that this is not what life in Christ is about. Remember that joy does not come through things like this.
We must fight the temptations to believe we’re larger than the community that welcomes us.
Despite what we’re often taught, Christianity isn’t about me, nor is it about you. It’s about us- the collective whole.
On a post-card, the me-centered grace sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to think that God came for just you, or just me? While, we know that Christ loved us enough to come for only one. We’re taught in Colossians that Christ came to redeem and reconcile all of creation to himself.
Not you. Not me. WE.
This thing we’re part of is much larger than any one person. The community of believers reminds us of this truth, right?
In church, we’re surrounded by people all working to make it through life. We struggle. We bicker. We fight. We love. We forgive. However, there isn’t one of us that is bigger or better than another in the eyes of God.
We’re all equals. We’re all sons and daughters of God.
We must remember we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. Because of this beautiful equality, we’re not entitled to anything extra.
How this begins the process of joy
Part of what creates despair in us is that, in the process of trying to show ourselves to be something we’re not, we lose ourselves and we forget who God created us to be.
Part of what the community of believers offers us is the chance to be real. To be our true, and honest self; warts and all. When we’re able to be ourselves, and when we’re accepted for who we truly are, we will find that joy comes naturally to us. It’s easy to find joy when we’re honest, open and recipients of God’s grace.
No matter the road we take, and no matter our path, the process towards true joy will always end with Christ, and will always be by way of the community of believers.