Of One Mind – What does it mean for us?

September 15, 2007

Phillipians is currently in the readings for the Daily Office.

One of Paul’s concerns in this letter is that the audience be of one mind.

I have heard this used in our current situation to describe a certain requirement for uniformity of doctrine within the church.  What a mistake.

This is what Paul says in Phil 2:1-4

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.

Of course, that sounds like wonderful Christian teaching – and it is.  But perhaps not in all situations.  Contrast it with, say the letter to the Galatians– where the church was beginning to believe that everyone needed to be circumcised, to become Jewish followers of Christ like Paul (to be of one mind in circumcision, if you will).  Paul rebukes them strongly, denounces them harshly:

Gal 3:1-5

You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!  The only thing I want to learn from you is this:  Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?  Did you experience so much for nothing? — if it really was for nothing.  Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Paul is very clear in the letter that he is Jewish, maintains his Jewish identity, and does not plan on relinqueshing it.  He makes a distinction between Gentile followers of Christ and Jewish followers of Christ.  His whole mission is to the Gentile followers of Christ, thus the non-circumision focus of the Epistle– and faith (rather than law) focus of his theology.  While he himself is Jewish (and thus circumcised) he tells the Galatians they are fools for wanting circumcision (to say nothing of his talk about the law and how that relates to our current situation).

What does this have to do with being of one mind?  Well certainly this:  We can deduce that Paul asks the Phillipians to be of one mind because they are being selfish.  Paul asks the Galatians to differentiate themselves and hold fast to who God has called them to be because there is growing pressure from the community to do something else.  There is no evidence anywhere that Paul would ask a Jew to refrain from circumcision.  The discussion is about gentile identity– not Jewish identity.

While he talks about how the law has changed for him as a Jew, the gospels (written many years after Paul, and likely all by Jews) still make a point of marking Jewish identity– purity laws are upheld, although relationships are put in higher priority; sacrifices are present; and so on.  (We cannot justify anti-semitism through the texts, although they have been used for that purpose.)  So Paul, in this example, is of two minds about identity.  Those born as Jews keep their Jewish identity; those born as Gentiles keep their Gentile identity– and all are embraced by Christ Jesus (Paul’s theology).   

Relating this to the Communion, of course, comes back to the root cause of the GLBT issue.  Those feeding on the “bread of anxiety” believe that the Episcopal church is being selfish rather than holding fast to the justice issues and authenticty of who God is calling us to be.  They cannot take the GLBT issue as an issue about identity.  They see it as an issue of law.

They are the voices crying against the Galations, shouting for circumcision because it is all that they can imagine or know.

But God calls us to a new level of imagination in our desire for him.  God calls us to trust the other.  God calls us to give up that part of ourselves that is so invested in the status quo that we demand that others do what we want and not what God wants.

While the cries of desparation get louder and more desparate– Nigeria calls for a deferral of Lambeth and consecrates more bishops, American bishops announce plans to leave the Episcopal Church, and so on– all in an effort to stir the pot.  Fear of loss of control does amazing things.  God takes the reins, and those who realize that their time is winding down thrash in the final and violent throes of anger.  It may not be quite over yet, but it approaches.

No, we are not of one mind, but we need not be.  A peace seems to exist, a compassion for those who cannot bear to lose control.  There is something about their movements which cause pity now, rather than anger.  A shift has occurred.  Their actions have now been revealed for what they are, and it seems obvious to most everyone.  The times of political maneuvering, of action and counter-reaction are over.  We simply watch and wait, with sorrow, as the spin winds down.

They cast their nets in Galilee, just off the hills of brown;
Such happy, simple fisherfolk, before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen, before they ever knew
The peace of God that filled their hearts brimful, and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail, homeless in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net, head-down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod;
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing — the marvelous peace of God.
         … William Alexander Percy

I doubt very much that it is God who broke their hearts, but their own limitations which prevented them from fully following to start with.  But it is the process of following which allowed them to find a peace fuller than they had ever known.

We have sown the sod, and perhaps now we work towards reaping the harvest.



One Response to “Of One Mind – What does it mean for us?”

  1. […] 3rd, 2007 I posted this poem before, but they were embedded deep in another post (this one, if you’re […]

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