“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

Though the Philippian Christians seemed untroubled in a casual reading of Paul’s letter, evidences in the letter suggest they had interpersonal relationship problems as Christians.

  1. The challenge to behave worthy of Christ’s gospel (1:27-30).
  2. Paul’s plea in the above text (2:1-4).
  3. The sending of Timothy to check on their condition (2:19).
  4. Paul’s explanation for his personal commitment (3:1-17).
  5. Recognition of the “enemies” in the congregation (3:17-21).
  6. The congregational conflict involving Euodia and Syntyche (4:2, 3).

In the context of internal rivalry, consider Paul’s admonition concerning proper conduct:

  1. “If you want to give me genuine cause for joy as I am under arrest, be of one mind (toward each other), preserve Christian love(that brought you together in Christ), be united in spirit (Jesus Christ’s spirit that produced your salvation), have a common purpose (determined by Jesus Christ’s objective).”
  2. “Never function in selfishness or empty conceit in the Christian community.”
  3. “Function in humility with high regard for other Christians.”
  4. “Consider the interests of other Christians as superior to your own interests.”

Paul based the example of appropriate Christian conduct on Jesus’ example in yielding to God, coming to earth, and living a life of surrender as a creature he helped bring into existence (2:5-8). He (as should we) let God magnify him (2:9-11), which God did.

One of the more difficult challenges every Christian confronts: determining appropriate behavior when a fellow Christian does not share our values, come to our conclusions, or behave like we want him or her to behave. Those moments make Paul’s injunction to contending Christians in Romans 14:10-12 extremely difficult to understand and follow. It is hard to leave such matters in God’s hands!

We understand that we practice good manners in physical matters to preserve civilized behavior. Good manners are not practiced because such are deserved. When people fail to practice good manners, civil behavior unravels. More is threatened than the moment!

Religiously, Christians practice holy manners to preserve Jesus Christ’s influence in the Christian community. Failure to do so threatens our spiritual family. Always, more is threatened than the moment! God’s influences advance with godly manners! God’s influence suffers when Christian’s use ungodly manners in His family.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 10 May 2007

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