The Attitude of Reconciliation
Read Philippians 2:1-11
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves."
In Philippians 2, Paul calls the church to unity. In 4:2, Paul addresses two women who were embroiled in some type of disagreement. While we do not know the issue, it was significant enough that Paul felt he needed to address the matter personally. While we do not know these individuals' full identity or the source of conflict, Paul regarded them as co-workers with him. To help resolve the dispute, he asks the rest of the church family to resolve their issue.
While he does not explicitly address the issue until chapter 4, he lays the foundation for the appeal in chapter two. In verse 2, he calls upon the church to maintain unity by remaining focused upon one purpose. That purpose is that they would "work out their salvation with fear and trembling" (vs. 12). IN other words, the genuineness of their allegiance to Christ is to make a difference in their life. Not that they are to work for their salvation, but that their salvation would become manifest in how they live. This is what brings us to the call to unity. The transformation that Christ brings is not only to affect our relationship with God; it is to affect our relationship with others.
Paul then provides the attitude we are to have in our relationship with people. First, he looks at the negative attitude. At the center of most conflicts are pride and selfishness. More often than not, when two people are embroiled in a conflict, it stems from one or both being driven by their selfish ambitions. Part of our sinful nature is that we focus upon our own needs, wants, and desires. We elevate our importance or needs above the needs of others. We are told to look out for ourselves, and to a large degree, that becomes our focus. But Paul reorients our thinking to move it off of our gain and interests and instead become more focused upon others' needs.
Paul now looks at the positive attitude, one of humility with we value others above ourselves. Just as the Greeks during the time of Paul despised humility, we often see it today as a weakness. Look no further than sports to see this illustrated today. We elevate the proud and arrogant. To value others above ourselves is not to devalue ourselves but rather to place others' needs above our agenda. When we do this, we follow the example of Christ, who set aside the exercise of his divine rights to become a servant and provide for our needs. To place their needs above our own is to give them honor and respect; it is to seek to encourage and serve them. It is to demonstrate a deep concern for the other.
One of the most effective ways to defuse conflict is to become more focused on serving the other person's needs than demanding our rights. When we do that, we use to build a bridge to them. Instead of becoming angry about how the other person violated our rights, focus on ministering to them. In the end, we will not only calm the relational waters of hostility, but we may also find a new friend.