. . . with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. . . .
There’s a song by Don Chaffer about two lovers staring contemplatively at the sunset on a warm afternoon at the beach. Breaking the stillness, the girl asks her boyfriend if he ever has a deep desire to be free of all that constrains, to escape the mundane and the trivial. He pauses and replies,
Kelly, I don’t think
I’ve ever wanted as much
To be free as I’ve longed to be known
And of the things that I hate
When I look at my life
The worst is my being alone
His unpremeditated comment has the unintended consequence of awakening her to the same conclusion. She, too—despite all her desires to be unencumbered by the tedium and travail of this life—longs to be known.
We’re all part of a variety of communities. We join the Boy Scouts or pledge a sorority. We become part of professional organizations or fraternal orders. We form bowling leagues and quilting circles. We gather in large halls as political parties and on back porches as the de facto neighborhood think-tank. For a number of reasons do we make ourselves part of those communities—to learn skills and share ideas, to heighten our enjoyment of something through shared experience, or to multiply our efforts through the synergy of collaboration. But because we have an innate drive to be understood and accepted, we also join them for the purpose of being known.
For the last two weeks, Mark has noted that Paul’s concern for the church at Philippi was that they would live a life worthy of the gospel—worthy in form and purpose. As to its form, a gospel-worthy life manifests in a unity of love and respect among the brethren. That’s why Paul admonishes them to be standing firm “with one spirit, with one mind striving side-by-side.” But the unity has a purpose larger that mere consensus. It’s for the sake of contending for the “faith of the gospel”—spreading its message where it was not known so that gratitude for that message would grow where it had taken root. As the nature of the gospel is to go forth, so those who understand its nature naturally go with it.
Herein lies the intriguing parallel: where making Christ known is paramount, there the potential for being known is richest. We don’t make Christ known in order to be known, but inevitably the latter follows from the former. How can that be? It’s the community of the gospel that has interest in the entirety of the person because it is that whole person for whom Christ died. We live before a God before whom “no creature is hidden. . .all are naked and exposed” (Heb 4:13), and yet from whom there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Rom 8:1). Therefore there is no place for concealment of what is laudable, sorrowful, or yes, reprehensible. For the community that understands itself to have been dead in sin (Eph 2:1) and yet made alive in Christ, upholds compassion for our remaining corruptions and support for our ongoing renewal. Furthermore, it’s a community with that self-understanding that labors to nurture the gifts in its people (Eph 4:12, 13) so that they bear fruit for the sake of the gospel (Jn 15:16). That’s a community that knows its members—which understands them and accepts them—because it’s laboring to make the One known who is singularly equipped to make us new.
Bowling leagues may give us sweet excitement. Professional organizations may float our resumes. Political parties may amplify our voice. But it is in the church, when its primary interest is in making Christ known, that we come to be known as we have always longed to be known.
As you look at your life in the church, how highly does contending for the faith of the gospel rank in your reasons for membership, in your participation in its life? The community you most long for will be found in the pursuit of making Christ known.