Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ...then make my joy complete by being like-minded...Phil 2:1, 2
Do you ever catch yourself picking someone apart flaw-by-flaw? Perhaps you salve your conscience by interjecting the phrase,
Now don't misunderstand me. I think the world of him, but... and off we go again. What's happened? Well, we're irritated, and unconsciously seeking some justification for not seeing this person again or breaking off relationships, by pointing out all the terrible faults in him that make it necessary. The trouble with this philosophy is that we treat it as though there were no alternatives left to us. You know how this works, don't you?
Paul says that is not true. We say there is no way to reconcile our personality differences. He says that isn't true. We say there is no way we can work together on a level because our spiritual maturity is so much superior to their immaturity. Paul says that isn't true. He says there are resources in Christ which make it possible. Believe me, I know what he is talking about because I've been wrestling with this problem. Paul says you have forgotten something when you think that just finding fault is an excuse to break with them. You've forgotten what you share in Christ. You've forgotten the power of the life of Christ within you to overlook injuries and forgive insults, and be patient with weakness and immaturity. There is an alternative to breaking off relationships. You can forget it. You can forbear it, you can bear with him.
Then he says, these are the resources and the ground on which you can do this:
Is there any encouragement in Christ; that is, does the encouragement of Christ's presence and His indwelling mean anything to you? Is there any incentive of the Spirit in you who loves you, to move you also to love the unlovely? Is there any participation in the Spirit of God so that you and the other person have something in common, and you know that God is at work from his end as well as yours? Is there any affection and sympathy for problems the one who is irritating you may be undergoing? Have you looked at it from his point of view? Have you tried to put yourself in his place, and sympathized with the pressures he may be undergoing? Paul says if there is any reality in these things, then act on that basis — not with the harsh, caustic, critical, negative attitude that tears someone apart — and stop that attitude which is one of Satan's best weapons for dividing Christians.
Lord, let me not go one more day with resentment against another, avoiding an awareness of the encouragement that there is in Christ and the incentive of His love in my heart. Make me mindful of the participation in the Holy Spirit, that there may be affection and sympathy in active friendship.
Christian unity is one of the great privileges to be appreciated and preserved in His Body. Are we exploring the alternatives to disunity, in order to preserve this precious heritage?