If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
I don’t know if you share this opinion or not, but I am SO tired of everything being politicized and polarized, especially within our Christian faith communities. When everything is turned into political debate, the Gospel flies right out the window. It seems that the Christian gospel and Paul’s writings are designed to bring out the best in us, while political debate is designed to bring out the worst. I want us (including myself) to be better than this.
Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi speaks powerfully to this situation for me. Paul uses brilliant rhetoric and clever construction to nail us to the wall! If there is any – one iota, one atom, one speck – compassion, consolation, sympathy, love, sharing in the Spirit, then be of one mind, love, and accord. This is stupendous. Of course, all of these characteristics are present in our faith communities – not just in scarcity and exception, but in abundance and ubiquity. Even when we are at our worst, most grumpy, selfish, and intolerant selves, we still possess all of these things. This is an incredibly subtle and elegant way of laying the foundation for what comes next. If we do possess any small measure of love, sympathy, compassion and caring, then we should do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility regard others as better than ourselves. I mean really; does this sound like our modern politics? But honestly, does it really sound like our churches either? Too many of our faith communities, too much of the time, are looking to their own interests rather than the interest of others.
But beyond judging our inadequacies, I draw from Paul’s letter a critical need for three essential elements: humility, compassion, and mercy. For many in our culture, humility, mercy, and compassion are not viewed as strengths, but as weaknesses, or at least vulnerabilities. The time is now for the church of Jesus Christ to witness and display the redeeming and transforming strength of these essential qualities. In combination, these three aspects encourage that God’s kingdom/kin*dom can come on earth, as in heaven. We will model justice, equity, fairness, generosity, healing, and security for all people, not just for some. When our gospel supersedes our politics, amazing things can happen, and we can begin to reflect the will and Word of God in everything we say, in everything we think, and in everything we do.
Gracious God, we are citizens of a political world, and each of us should do all we can to support healthy, productive, and just political systems. Yet, we serve a higher authority, purpose, and promise. Help us to live with dignity and integrity in a polarized and divided world, and wherever possible, help us to build bridges, to heal wounds, and to reconcile division. We can do this through your grace and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.