A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to preach out of Philippians 4:1-3. At first glance, I thought to myself, "This passage is not that important.. I mean it says very little about what I want to talk about." But then as I dug a little deeper I realized the significance of the passage. Verse 1 says, "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!" This verse is an add on to chapter 3 where Paul is encouraging the church in Philippi to press on towards the goal in front of them. To achieve the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and to become like Him. The reason why I believe Paul is capping this section off with an encouragement is because he's about to tell the community something really hard.
Verse 2-3 says, "2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." Now at first glance, it's real easy to keep reading past it to verse 4 where it says, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say Rejoice." But as I dove deeper into the text, I realized the significance of this passage
The context for this text is that there are two prominent women in the church who had a disagreement. It wasn't a doctrinal issue that Paul needed to address or else he would have addressed it and we don't really know what the argument was anyways, but at any rate, this disagreement was disrupting the community as a whole.
As I dove into the text I observed 3 Keys to Killing Community:
#1: Individualistic Isolation - When we argue, we have a tendency to become more and more isolated, believing that no one knows or understands. Rather than leaning into community, we begin to become more isolated in fear of being fully known by others. Our obsession to become "famous" keeps us from engaging (Read The Return of Shame by Andy Crouch).
Andy Crouch in his article talks about the shift in Honor-Shame Paradigms in to Western culture. It hasn't been what the anthropologists have coined it to be. For example, traditional cultures built around honor and shame have a community that would literally save face for that person if they are need. However, in the West, mobility and personal freedom are practically designed to isolate and keep you from reaching out into community. So instead of evolving into a traditional honor-shame culture, large parts of our culture are starting to look something like a postmodern fame-shame culture. Like honor, fame is a public estimation of worth, a powerful currency of status. But fame is enabled only by a broad audience, with only the loosest of bonds to those they acclaim.
I believe the first way we kill community is when we isolate. We isolate for a myriad of reasons, but thinking we can do it alone is one of the many reasons why we do so.
#2: Comparison / Competition - A result of Fame-Shame culture is that we begin to compare ourselves with one another because we believe that our value and worth is estimation of value that we have compared to others. It can be as small as the clothes on our a backs to our job titles. But if we're honest, the root of comparison goes far deeper, like believing the lie that if I were successful or beautiful I would be more satisfied with life. Comparison or Competition is a natural result of a Fame-Shame Culture.
#3: Transparency vs. Vulnerability - This last point is interesting because I've always grown up believing that transparency is a good thing. And it is, unless it hinders vulnerability. The difference in my opinion is that transparency shares the struggles we are going through but merely shares them out of obligation. Vulnerability on the other hand goes a step further.
C.S. Lewis says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
We share our deepest struggles and invite others to be healing agents through Christ in our journey. Vulnerability is powerful because it believes that God has called us into community so that we might be healed.
So... what's the remedy to having a redemptive community? Jesus. The remedy is that Jesus was killed on our behalf so that we might be set free to live in community. He was isolated so that we might be included. He was compared to and competed against (by the entire world) so that we might be celebrated one day in heaven. And Jesus ultimately became the most vulnerable with us, even to the point of death on the Cross so that we might be known by God and know what it means to live in an authentic community.