As has often been noted, unity is not uniformity. Uniformity is a form of slavery demanding that everyone look, think, and/or behave identically. Unity, however, recognizes that God created each individual uniquely to serve a particular function in the body of Christ and that all must be committed within the parameters of that creation to work together for the thriving of the body to the glory of the Lord.
If you have ever observed the preparations of a symphony orchestra right before a performance, you have noticed that the concertmaster will stand and signal the first chair oboist, to play an A on his oboe. Every member of the orchestra then tunes his instrument to the A played on the oboe. It might seem to make more sense for all instruments of one type—the strings, the woodwinds, and the brass, for example—to tune to those who make a similar sound. But no, that would lead to cacophony. Though the quality of the sound differs from section to section and even from instrument to instrument, the orchestra will be in tune only if all instruments tune to one pitch on the same instrument. Doing so does not change the integrity of the sound any particular instrument produces—a cello still sounds like a cello, a bassoon like a bassoon, and a French horn like a French horn. But they then play together without unintended dissonance.
So it is regarding unity within the body of Christ. Of the various elements Paul might have mentioned first regarding how to achieve unity in the church of Jesus Christ, the first he mentioned was
“being of the same mind” (Phil. 2:2). As the illustration above was intended to demonstrate, being of the same mind does not mean that believers fall in lockstep behind some dictatorial pastor or follow like lemmings some charismatic leader. On the contrary, as a living organism, it is essential that each believer bring his peculiar gifts and abilities, including his insights and understanding, to the table. And just as a flute remains a flute when played in the orchestra, so God intends believers to be who He made them and called them to be.
So what does Paul mean, then, when he pleads with the believers at Philippi (and by extension, believers in every church and age) to be of the same mind? He is calling us to tune our instruments to the Lord, the only one who has the correct pitch. He explains a similar truth to the believers who worshipped together at Colosse: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:1-3).
So long as our minds are set on earthly things—self-fulfillment, self-advancement, self-aggrandizement, we will never enjoy the one-mindedness that unity requires. So long as our wishes, desires, and ambitions focus on the temporal, unity will escape us. Unity results from considering the fact that our lives have been “hidden with Christ in God.” Having been bought with a price, we are no longer our own. We belong to Christ and have been inducted into His body—integral, essential parts of a whole that has been ordained by God. As wonderful as is the sound of a solo violin or a solo trumpet, it will never communicate the intent of Beethoven when he composed his 5th Symphony. To make that kind of music requires a full orchestra playing in harmony. Just so, believers must individually yield themselves to the will of God as revealed in the Word of God if we are to experience the blessed, God-honoring unity that comes from being of the same mind.
That “same mindedness” requires both love and submission—to the Lord and to our other brethren. It does not mean that a trumpet must become a piccolo. It does mean that both trumpet and piccolo are reading the same musical score and that the trumpet rests when so directed and allows the piccolo to play its part, joining in as the score dictates. Following our heavenly Conductor is the only way to achieve the unity that is music in the ears of our Savior. Is having the mind of Christ something you desire?
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