A Call to Celebration

Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Session Four

  • Invite people to talk about some encouraging news item which they have seen or heard recently.
  • Talk about unity in the group. Who experiences it? What kind of unity? How could it be strengthened?
  • Take a count of the number of different Christian churches in your locality.
  • I f possible get someone to give a brief talk on the Ecumenical Movement.
  • Read Philippians 1: 27 – 30 and the comment that goes with this guide

Philippians 1: 27 – 30

vv.27 – 28 :Remember that this was, in the first instance, written to a community, so Paul is urging the Christian community in Philippi to live worthy of the Gospel. He spells out what he means – standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel and in no way being intimidated by their opponents.There is then a word to the Church of today here – demonstrate the value of the gospel by what you do, by the way you treat each other, by the spirit of unity you display. Of course, it applies to individuals as well – you witness by your daily living as well as by what you say about Jesus. You are a witness whether you want to be or not. The question is whether you are a good and accurate witness or whether you distort the picture of Christ. Many people have missed out on the dynamic power of Christ in their lives because they have been put off by dull and lack-lustre or hypocritical Christians.The church exists to be caught up in Christ’s affairs. Too often congregations get wrapped up in their own affairs, even sectional interests within the congregation. Christ calls us to unity and co-operation because this is part and parcel of kingdom living and because that unity is in itself a witness to others. There is a part for every member to play in this, a contribution to make toward the church being a community of love and compassion, cooperation and respect for one another.Given the divided state of the church, it is surely Christ’s will that the unity and cooperation which he wants in any one congregation should be evident among all the congregations in a local area. Unity and cooperation is not something to think about only during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It should be part of the on-going life of the denominations in a local area. If we can’t all unite into one organized church, we can at least work co-operatively and sensitively with one another on the local level. If we can’t join together in working and worshipping with all denominations we can at least join together with some.

vv. 29-30: The followers of Jesus will always be out-of-step with the world. Therefore those who are Christ’s disciples can expect a struggle. If it’s true that life wasn’t meant to be easy, it’s even more true that the Christian life wasn’t meant to be easy. Yet, like Paul, we can count it a privilege to be called upon to suffer, in some way, for Christ.There are many Christians around the world who are being called upon to suffer because of their faith. Militant and fundamentalist Muslims and Hindus are trying to drive Christians out by the use of fear tactics. In some places it is government policy to deny Christians access to the top positions. Sometimes it is not just because they are Christians that they are subject to harassment, it is because their obedience to Christ has driven them to stand against the wealthy and the powerful in defence of the poor and powerless. They have stood out against racism in the midst of a racist community, or they have sacrificed themselves for peace when all around were crying out for war.Compared with that experienced in other parts of the world the persecution of Christians in Australia may seem tame and almost non-existent. But it is enough to keep many quiet, unprepared to come out openly and declare their allegiance to Jesus Christ or unprepared to stand up openly in support of Christ’s way of love for neighbour on social issues. But we, like the Philippians of old, are told to be in no way intimidated by our opponents. This calls for a courage grounded in one’s commitment to Jesus Christ.How we face our opponents is important. It is important that we live out the gospel command to love our enemies, to do good to those who mistreat us, to love one another. If we defend the gospel in un-Christlike ways we undermine the very message that we are trying to defend.

For Discussion:

1. Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (a) How do you react to the idea that you are a witness whether you want to be or not?  (b) Give instances in your own experience when either a congregation or an individual person presented the Gospel of Christ by what they did rather than by what they said.

. Unity and co-operation in the congregation.  (a) Why is unity and co-operation such an important part of congregational life?  (b) What obstacles lie in the way of unity and co-operation among the members of your church? How should those obstacles be dealt with?

3. Christian unity  (a) How could Christian unity and co-operation be better expressed by the churches in your local area?  (b) Talk about your own experiences of unity in Christ.

4. The privilege of suffering for Christ. (a) . How can suffering for Christ be a privilege?  (b) What hardships have you had to endure because of your faith?

  • Pray for unity within your congregation.
  • Pray for a spirit of unity and cooperation among the local churches.
  • Pray for people who are being persecuted because of their faith.