Esteem Others as Better Than Yourself
Last week we began a study of the book of Philippians. As we enter into chapter 2, Paul uses the word "therefore" and continues to exhort Christians to "strive together" for unity (cf. 1:27). He begins by giving instructions as to how brethren can be united.

"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (Phil. 2:1,2). Did you notice that the first verse uses the word "if" four times? Paul's use here of the word "if" is not to express doubt regarding these matters. He is trying to remind them of these wonderful truths! He is essentially saying that since they are in Christ there is consolation or encouragement, there is love that is comforting, there is fellowship with God, and there is compassion and mercy.

Therefore, because all of these blessed things are true in Christ, Paul requested that they fulfill his joy. How? By being like-minded. The encouragement, love, fellowship, and mercy that they enjoyed as Christians should motivate them to have the same mindset; that is, to be united together in Christ. Paul declared that to be like-minded is to have true love for each other, it is to be joined together in our thoughts and goals, and it is to be of "one accord". Christians must endeavor to live in harmony with each other. To be like-minded is to be in agreement. It is to be united, which is the opposite of disagreement and division.

God desires that Christians be like-minded. Now, admittedly, it is easy to proclaim the need for like-mindedness but much more difficult to actually achieve it. How can we become like-minded as Christians? That is an important question indeed. How can any group of people with diverse backgrounds and various opinions come together and be strongly united? It all starts with accepting the same standard of authority--God's word! Agreement and harmony will never be achieved when there is no authoritative objective standard that is agreed upon. Paul further stressed this point later in Philippians when he wrote - "...let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind" (3:16). If we are content to do those things that the Scriptures authorize, and if we are content to abstain from those things that the Scriptures do not authorize, then we are well on our way to being like-minded. But, there is more to this subject to consider...

Philippians 2:3 states - "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." Here is a key point in being like-minded: we must learn to view others as better than ourselves! This is so terribly difficult to do, but it is not impossible. Our Lord lived by this principle and we must work hard to imitate Him (cf. I Cor. 11:1).

The reason why we have difficulty in considering others as better than ourselves is because of pride and self-centeredness. Humans can clearly see the shortcomings of others, but are often blind to their own. Thus, many deceive themselves into thinking that they are somehow better than others. This often leads to arrogance and poor treatment toward those viewed as inferior. When we allow such sinful attitudes to have a place in our hearts, like-mindedness will not be a reality. When we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are more righteous, intelligent, or wise than others, unity will be impossible to maintain. When one insists on enforcing his own opinion upon others, division will follow. A Christian who is ambitious only for what he wants will bring much contention and bitterness to the local congregation. Such a person vainly exalts himself. Paul condemned such an attitude in this passage. Paul wants us to - "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).

Friends, do you want to be like-minded and in harmony with your brethren? I hope so. Cling to the revealed word of God as your infallible standard (not your personal preferences and speculations). Then, continually concentrate on esteeming others as more important than yourself (and treat them accordingly)! Stop thinking that you are the most important person in your life; be humble!