“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”
(Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers)
Some of you might be familiar with this quote, but do you know there is a similar thought to be found in the book of Philippians?
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. (Philippians 1:27-28a)
Paul knew that unity in the local church impacts the sharing of our faith. Loving one another is a key apologetic for the gospel. However, for Paul unity was primarily focused around the task of gospel proclamation.
David Mathis commenting (in "Habits of Grace") on the nature of the church writes:
The koinonia – the commonality, partnership, fellowship – which the first Christians shared wasn’t a common love for pizza, drinks, and a nice clean evening of fun among fellow church members. It was their common Christ, and their common life-or-death mission together in his summons to take the faith worldwide in the face of impending persecution.
Paul desired that they be united and would “stand firm in one spirit”. Use of the term “stand firm” reminded them that sharing their faith meant engagement in a spiritual battle. Hence, his comment to not be frightened by those who opposed them. The word translated “frightened” was used of horses bolting when startled. He did not want them to “take off” as soon as they met opposition when sharing their faith. Neither must we!
It would be good to ask ourselves questions: Do I run away when people challenge my faith or start making fun of me? Do I back away or back down when moral or ethical issues are being discussed? Is it easier to keep quiet rather than be labelled a religious bigot? Am I willing to face the stigma of being identified and involved with people that are marginalised in our society?
It has been encouraging to see people take up Relational Mission’s “Take A Step” challenge to grow in small steps in becoming better witnesses to Jesus. But, sharing our faith by words, works, and wonders is something we are all called to do together as “one man”. Using a simple analogy, if we were members of the Cambridge crew in the boat race, then we would all need “to pull together as one” if we were to make progress in the race!
I close with a true story illustrating how vital working together is in seeing people experience the salvation that comes to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus:
There is a tragic story of a little boy who had gone outside to play in the snow. Suddenly the snowfall reached blizzard dimensions and the little boy was lost in a gigantic snowdrift. Alarmed, both parents ran outside through the large field next to their home, searching for their son. They even telephoned neighbours to come and assist in looking for the lost child. Independently and intensely many continued to look for the little boy, but to no avail. Finally, it was determined that all of the volunteers in the field should take hands and walk across the field together. Only then could they rescue the lost boy. Resolutely, they determined to lock arms and walk the field together. They did find the lost little boy – but it was too late. He had frozen to death, as many people were frantically, yet independently, looking for him.
So, by God’s grace let’s determine to join our hands, walk side by side, and, by working together, see many people rescued and brought from death to life through faith in Jesus our great Lord and Saviour.