COLUMN: Be of the same mind

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, October 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A recent poll asked Americans to vote for which hymns were their very favorites. Hundreds of people voted. In all, this particular list they published ended up naming one hundred songs. But the top ten on the list might not surprise you much. 

Songs like Amazing Grace (which came in first), How Great Thou Art and Great Is Thy Faithfulness finished at the very top. What A Friend We Have In Jesus and It Is Well With My Soul were right up there, too. 

I have a suspicion. When people say, “Why don’t we sing the old songs more?” what they mean is “Why don’t we sing my favorites more often?” which would be a list that looks something like this one in the poll. 

But not precisely. Because wouldn’t everyone’s top ten vary a bit? One person might love “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Be Thou My Vision,” while another might prefer “Beulah Land” and “I’ll Fly Away.” 

Of course, we don’t craft a worship service around my or your favorite songs list at our church. There are a couple of good reasons. First, as I mentioned, not everyone’s list of favorites would look exactly the same. Besides, God is our audience for worship. Not me nor you.

Second, far and away more important is that the music for our services needs to fit with the scripture and the theme of the service. That is, our worship service order isn’t a figurative greatest hits jukebox.

What does any of this have to do with our scripture in Philippians 2: 1-13? The apostle Paul appeals here to the Philippian church that they should be humble and of one mind. It appears that he quotes from a hymn of his day, one that has been lost to antiquity. 

Scholars can detect a change in his Greek syntax and style for a brief few sentences during this section. They detect that he is quoting what appear to be song lyrics. A hymn of his day, and maybe his favorite.

I’m afraid it’s not hard to get most of us to think of ourselves. Once in a while, I’ll run into a truly selfless person. Even more rarely, we might see someone who is too self-sacrificing. Too giving, to the point that they neglect themself in some way. 

But that’s not very often. If we are truthful, most of us can very easily look after number one. It’s voices like Jesus’ and Paul’s which can sound challenging to us when we actually hear them calling on us to be selfless and to consider those around us. 

I want to be sure that we’re clear what Paul was calling on the Philippian church to do. The appeal here is to unity and to humility because both rely on us to regard others as highly as we do ourselves.

My wife does all manner of amazing things that serve, give and help others. But she also has a joke that we visit often. Here’s how it goes. “Do your good deed of the day as early as you can. That way, you can be as bad as you want to be for the rest of the day.” 

We laugh because it’s actually not the way she lives. Still, we can’t help but notice that it falls into that odd category of things that would be even funnier if they weren’t so true. Because there are a lot of people out there who just can’t see past themselves. 

The note that the apostle Paul is sounding here is quite the opposite of that joke. Because he’s calling on us to rise above selfishness. He’s calling on us to be able to care about far more than just what I want or what you want. 

Turns out, doing good deeds isn’t a one-moment-a-day thing. It’s not a gateway to getting to be as bad as you want to be the rest of the day. It’s not a transactional outcome, negotiated with the expectation of something good for yourself in return. 

No, the standard we are being compelled to by Paul’s correct and inspired assessment of Jesus Christ holds others in high regard. In a politically and culturally divided world, we have to be on the same page in order to have a chance. Or as Paul terms it, we need to be of the same mind. We have to care about one another, and our neighbors, as ourselves in order to stand a chance of living like Christ. 

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.