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The prelude to these verses is in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him”. Hard times diminish joyful expectation, but in Christ it should never be totally extinguished. Paul does not command the suffering church in Philippi as he did the arrogant church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:21), but rather he entreats them. He encourages them to identify the blessings they have received by being united to Christ, and then gently leads them to reflect that they should treat one another in the same way (Philippians 2:5).
So, how should we react when the Lord focuses His tender love to strengthen our frail humanness? Of course, we should give thanks, and express our praise. But there is more: when we were brought into God's family, we acquired many other brothers and sisters too. If our unity with Christ is real, it ought to be matched by a united outlook in the church. If we have the Holy Spirit, we ought to enjoy loving fellowship with others who are also marked by the Spirit. If God is gently remaking our broken lives, we should be working with other believers so that Christ's rule and blessing will come to our community, colleges, and workplace.
Like all parents, Paul longed to see his spiritual family in Philippi working together well, full of love, joy and peace. But the cold winds of persecution (Philippians 1:29-30) had distanced the believers from each other. Instead of looking after their spiritual siblings, self-interest had crept back. Trouble had affected trust; fear prevented warm fellowship. That cycle of fear and mistrust had to be broken if they were to be the church God intended, so Paul drew their attention back to the Lord Jesus. Even though He suffered so greatly He did not seek His own good, but gave Himself in love (Philippians 2:6-8). In the same way, Paul urged the believers to love each other. Together they should be shining lights to a dark world as they together held out the gospel to their community and workplaces (Philippians 2:14-16).
Human relationships are designed to mirror our relationship with God: indeed, we have no other perfect role model. That is why broken fellowship is as painful as a broken marriage. False motives and empty promises are useless to mend the relationship; but godly sorrow, repentance and humble love are God's way (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). However, prevention is much better than cure. If you are with believers, invest in them through praying, giving and serving in love. Share with them in gospel outreach and support each other's witness. Do not allow yourself to become an isolated follower of Jesus; pray and receive God's Word together, so that you may all become stronger in faith and more useful to the Lord.
© Dr Paul Adams