Our Monday night Men’s Group is currently in a study of the Book of Philippians. In this letter, Paul is responding to some unsettling news from Philippi. He has a great affection for the church at Philippi, and has had a long and fruitful relationship with them. They have shared in his troubles, and once again, this time while he is in prison, they have sent one of their own to provide comfort and take care of his physical needs. But, it seems a troubling report has reached Paul’s ears. It seems that two of the congregants in Philippi have lost their focus on Christ and have had a sharp disagreement. These two are evidently in some kind of leadership position, and their disagreement is affecting (and infecting) the entire congregation. We aren't told what the problem is between them, and it’s not really important. We can be certain that it is not a doctrinal dispute, as Paul makes no attempt to address, or correct, a doctrinal issue. Our only clue is his repeated admonishment to not act “out of selfish ambition.”
Paul provides his readers several examples of what selflessness looks like, reminding them of people they know who act not only for their own good, but also for the good of others: Paul himself, Timothy, Epaphroditus, but the most potent example is the example of Christ. In one of the most poignant sections of scripture, he recites what many think may have been an early Christian hymn:
Christ Himself gave us the greatest example of selflessness that mankind has ever known. The Word, Who was the very essence of God, equal to God, actually WAS God, made a choice. He gave up His rights as God, and put on the cloak of flesh. If God valued His relationship with us enough to empty Himself of His god-ness in order to repair it, and strengthen it, how dare we allow personality clashes (or selfish ambition) cause rifts in our interpersonal relationships within the Church!!??