For many today, love is best expressed by tolerance towards the beliefs of others, as if faith and conviction did not determine heaven or hell. However, there is no want for demanding preachers in the Old and New Testaments, it might be said the Bible was written by bigots, who presented a narrow way of salvation. As in the case of Paul who wrote to the church at Philippi, “I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel…” 1:4-5. For Paul, the Gospel was not so broad to include different teachings, as when he wrote to the Galatians and said anyone who preached another Gospel should be accursed. He thought Gospel error to be that serious!
Paul wrote to the Philippians with great affection and love, “it is right for me to think this about all of you, because I have you in my heart…” 1:7, and “For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” 1:9. Paul was filled with joy because the Philippians’ belonged to Christ and they got the Gospel right.
Even motive to Paul was a secondary issue to getting the Gospel right. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.” 1:15-18. Paul must have felt intense pain over brothers in the faith who felt it necessary to cause him pain while in prison, yet because Christ in the Gospel was proclaimed he could rejoice. We know these preachers were true brothers or else Paul would never have rejoiced at their preaching.
The Christian should expect persecution from the unsaved world for Christ and the Gospel sake, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Again, Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him” 1:29. However, nothing is more hurtful than when criticism comes from within the Church by true brethren.
There are few things uglier than discord among true pastors due to pride, ambition, and ungodly jealousy. Discord is part of the human experience, which is why Paul admonished the Philippians, “complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had” 2:2-5.
For the Christian, the first line of concern is to get the Gospel right because without that Christianity is reduced to pure moralism, which is phariseeism. In many peripheral areas of ministry, churches will do things differently, but sinful motives must be guarded against with the tenacity of a bear defending her cubs because all ungodly discord reflects on Christ. If Christ out of unconditional love humbled Himself by taking on the appearance and nature of humanity and a slave for a world of enemies who hated Him, how then shall we live toward those we call brother.
A faithful Christian knows and shares truth and humility!