Make My Joy Complete… A Call to Unity

Jumping off from Heather’s earlier post “Intro to Fellow Sojourners” out of Philippians 2:1-2, I thought I’d continue with Paul’s train of thought in Philippians 2:3-6.

The believers in Philippi were suffering for Christ as Paul was suffering in his imprisonment (1:29-30). The apostle reminds them that they also share together in Christ’s comfort and love (2:1). Therefore, Paul calls the believers to make his joy complete by maintaining the same mind, love, unity, and purpose (2:2). Even in, and especially in tough times believers are called to unity of fellowship and purpose.

Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave them or us with some vague idea of what it looks like to function with one purpose. The apostle provides practical instruction on how believers can live it out. He begins with what not to do, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (2:3a).

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit

Paul tells us what undermines believers having one mind: acting out of selfish ambition and pride. Self-promotion was obviously present in the early church just as it is today. In fact, in chapter one of Philippians Paul said that there were those who were preaching Christ from selfish ambition wanting to cause him harm during his imprisonment (1:15-17).

"Selfish ambition: devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” [1]

How different Paul’s admonition is from our current culture where the norm is to seek out recognition and fame. Many people build their whole sense of worth on how many “likes” they receive or how many “followers” they have on social media. In our day, the craze to make a name for ourselves is non-stop. The message seems to be, If you’re not known as some sort of celebrity, who are you? Yet, Paul calls us to stop moving in that direction.

The apostle continues his letter by telling the Philippians and us what to do. He says that it’s the humble person who promotes unity—the one who thinks of others as better than themselves (v. 3b). Lowliness of mind—this is what leads to one purpose being carried out by Christ’s body. Having a countercultural servant mentality.

To keep a proper balance so that we don’t equate humility with a disregard for ourselves or for developing our interests, Paul says in verse 4 that we should “not merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Selfcare is not the same as selfishness. However, self-promotion, working to rise above others, splinters the unity of the body of Christ.

Paul will go on in verses 5-11 to use Christ as our ultimate example of humility. He notes that though Christ “existed in the form of God” He did not “regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). That’s it! That’s exactly it! We live in a culture that grasps, trying to seize hold of prestige and position. The church is not exempt from this power struggle. Pride lurks in the heart of each one of us awaiting the opportunity to exert itself.

We live in a culture that grasps, tries to seize hold of power, prestige, and position.

Scripture’s antidote to this malady is for us to think of others as better than ourselves, to look out not only for our own interests, but the interests of others. Like Christ, we are to take on the form of a servant, having one purpose, serving the Lord together. What does this look like in the place where the Lord has planted you? How can we apply Paul’s prohibition on selfish ambition? And how can we apply his exhortation to unity of purpose through humility?

God’s word being sharper than a two-edged sword judges the thoughts and intentions of our heart. As we ponder His truth from Philippians 2:3-6, we can allow the Holy Spirit to act as a searchlight exposing our selfish motives. For me, as I see my worldly motives exposed, a desire to make my mark or to stand out and be noticed, I take them to the Lord and repent. As I turn to Christ, I find cleansing and grace to walk in a new way. Additionally, this month I’m going to search out ways to serve and lift up someone else’s interests, helping them in their service for the Lord. May the Lord guide you as you apply these Scriptures from Philippians to your life.

It’s so refreshing to walk away from worldly values. We can be unity builders instead of competitors. Think of all that God can accomplish through us as we walk with the same love and the same purpose.

Blessings, Nancy Gemaehlich

[1], “Selfish,”, accessed 3/26/20.

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Who made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever.

Psalm 146:6