I’ve been preaching through Paul’s letter to the believers at Philippi and have several times stopped to shake my head at how appropriate and timely his words are now for my life, my church, and my denomination (The United Methodist Church).
Like other mainline denominations, the UMC is wrestling (probably an understatment) with homosexuality and marriage equality within the Church and in our doctrine. I’ve resisted writing on this because I don’t feel I have an answer and another post would just be more noise on the internet.
In Philippians, Paul writes to the church making a plea for the church to be united by being “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (2:2). Paul then writes how they are to do this in 2:3-4:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of the others.”
Paul throws down the best example one can think of when it comes to humility- Jesus,
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8
For Paul, the way for the church to be united is through Christ-like humility. Paul doesn’t seem to advocate for unity through orthodoxy, but a mindset that leads to a lifestyle of humility that promotes unity. Paul calls on the church at Philippi to lay their lives down for each other ahead of their own agendas. To put the interest and affairs of others ahead of their own concerns.
How does this address equality? It probably doesn’t for those who want to be right. As the divide seemingly grows in our congregation- and possibly in our churches- we can fall to the temptation of tearing apart the “other side.” Are we living a “life worthy of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:27) in the way we treat our clergy colleagues and church leaders? As we post on blogs, comment on Facebook, and interact in person, let us remember to live and respond in Christ-like humility towards one another.