I grew up going to church, and to a Christian school, and unfortunately witnessed a good deal of fighting over really silly things in those environments. It seems that the same kind of thing was going on in Philippi when Paul was writing his letter to the Philippians. When disunity and needless arguing was occurring in my childhood church and school I wanted to run away from Church altogether. I thought it would be best for me to focus on my relationship with Jesus outside of the Church so that I didn’t have to deal with any of that nonsense. Over time, however, I learned just how important it is to be involved in the Body of Christ, and to be in relationship with other believers. Fellowship is one way to decipher truth versus falsehood, and determine what is worth fighting over and what isn’t.
Unity in the Body of Believers is a theme that we see throughout the book of Philippians. In chapter one, Paul shares that his desire for the Philippians is that their love may abound in knowledge and discernment, so that they will be able to identify what is excellent, and therefore be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (v.9-11). This is a really important piece to note before moving on to the end of chapter one. In verses 27-30, Paul exhorts the Philippians to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the sake of the gospel”. Before Paul told the Philippians to be of one spirit and mind, he first told them to grow in their love for one another, in their knowledge of the truth of Christ, and learn to discern what is most excellent. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Paul knew that this church was struggling with disunity, and he wanted them to learn to decipher what was worth arguing about and what was not.
This is true for the modern Church as well. I think we can all say that we’ve witnessed disunity in the American Church in our lifetime. Many Christians wisely call for unity, but sometimes the expectation is that we all just blindly get along and have a “live and let live” mentality when it comes to theology and doctrine. Certainly, there are things that we can disagree on and still maintain unity and work together for the sake of the gospel, but we must discern truth together on foundational issues in order to advance the Gospel.
One way to grow in your love for the Church, and in knowledge and discernment is to seek out other believers to study the Bible with. There are a number of different ways that you can do this, such as small groups, Bible Studies, or discipleship relationships. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your pastor! I know he’ll be thrilled to steer you in the right direction!