Weekly Bible Devotional
“Down to Earth Love”
December 1, 2019
Scripture for Sunday: Philippians 2:1-5
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Notes on The Text:
In our Bible reading for this week we hear from the apostle Paul about the example of Christ’s love and how it challenges us to have a unity of mind and heart. At face value, this kind of invitation is daunting. How could we possibly have the same mind and the same love when we seem to be so divided and separate from one another? How is it even possible to be of one mind? We know how difficult that is for us, even within one church or one family. Our different experiences and perspectives often end up separating us. We don’t have to look far to see this. Just watch the news for a few minutes and you will get the picture! We also know that the early followers of Jesus were not always of the same mind when it came to many issues. There were many conflicts and issues to work through.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul was trying to help them see that the love which God embodies in and through us can heal our cultural divisions and pain. Paul was very aware of the cultural conditioning of the Philippians. He knew how they saw the world through the lens of the Roman Empire, a world where the rich and powerful were seen as blessed by the gods, while the rest were seen as destined to a life of misery and submission to the will of the elite. He knew that the people of Philippi saw that the ruling elite had to use violence and religion to control the masses. The domination systems of the world are built on the idea that there will always be winners and losers and that competition and exploitation are just the way things are.
The Apostle Paul challenged the followers of Jesus to see the world as Jesus saw it. He challenged them to let God’s view of the world reshape their vision of life and society. In fact, one of the powerful images which Paul uses is inviting the followers of Jesus to have the mind of Christ. Paul saw that following the way of Christ was not just a religious idea or a belief system. He saw it as a radical way of the heart that has the power to reshape our minds, our actions, and our world into the way of Christ. He knew that in order to make the vision of Christ a reality in the world, a collective change of heart needed to happen. This change starts with our ability to see our eternal connection to one another beyond our political or social divisions. When we recognize our unity, we can live in a very different way.
As we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, one of the ways of living by the wisdom of God about love is to look at the manger and to see that love is something deeper than any of our human divisions. Love is about beholding the sacred in every moment and in every person. In the story of the birth of Jesus, we have one of the most powerful examples of this kind of love. God enters into our human experience not because God agrees with us or thinks that we are doing a great job living up to our full potential. What matters to God is love and connection. In the gift of the baby in the manger God gives us an incredible example of the power of the kind of love that will heal the world. In the example of Jesus, we see and experience love that transcends all of our human divisions and fears and which calls us to live out of that sense of unity and oneness.
Here are a few things for us to remember as we seek to follow God’s “Down to Earth” way of love, the way of the heart:
- Love Is the Gift of God in Us: Love is about allowing the love of God to grow in our hearts. The more love we experience deep within us, the more we are able to love others. One of the things I appreciate about contemplative prayer, especially the prayers of silence with others is that we can feel the bond we have with God and with one another without even speaking. The same is true when people are serving together. When we are doing the work of love, we connect with others beyond any of the barriers that normally separate us.
- Love Is an Invitation to Relationship: Rachel Billups writes, “we must realize that we don’t have to agree to agree…Christians were labeled, branded, because of how well they loved one another. They loved one another so much that they were willing to die for each other.” One of my colleagues in ministry used to say, “we don’t have to think alike to love alike.” Love is ultimately about our connection to God and to others which can never be broken.
- Love is a Covenant of Commitment: Billups writes, “The first Jesus followers treated their commitment to Jesus as a covenant, much like a marriage covenant…Followers of Jesus do not have to win to win…What would happen if this Advent we made ourselves second, not only to God but to those around us? For the debates we find ourselves in, maybe it would mean using ‘yes, and.’ More than ‘no, but.”
Tomorrow as you share your Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, remember this love. You don’t have to convince people of your views or ideas about life. You don’t need to seek or give approval. You don’t need to stress out about having the best meal or the cleanest house. What you need to focus on is the gift of love!
Prayer by Thomas Merton:
O God, we are one with you. You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole being, because our being is your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.