Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
David was acting like a tyrannical authoritarian. He was snapping orders to his subjects and demanding strict and prompt obedience, all the while waving a pointing stick back and forth like a menacing sword. Suddenly the stick flew from his hands and headed straight for me! I dodged the missile (which was actually rather harmless) and the whole congregation erupted in laughter. I laughed with delight as well, but not at David or his shocked and worried expression. I was rejoicing in the moment of unity and brotherly affection we were all experiencing in that Sunday morning’s mishap during the chancel drama. We were united with one mind and spirit, rejoicing in the favor of God and the fellowship of gospel. Together we were rejoicing that God is not the crazed tyrant that David was portraying. It was a sweet moment.
I’ve seen on the other end of that spectrum. I’ve suffered disunity and ill will within the fellowship of the redeemed. Believe me, it is no fun. Conflict takes over when people get distracted by their own fears and selfish desires, becoming turned in on themselves. It is not a manner of life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of a different kind of conflict, and a unity that transcends suffering and turmoil. It grows out of a deep conviction in the goodness and faithfulness of God. It may be tested by tribulation brought on by those who are opposed to the message of God’s rule and reign in Jesus. But this unity remains strong in those who know that the rule and reign of Jesus Christ is good and gracious, and who delight in his presence and calling in their lives.
But not everyone knows or believes that Jesus’ rule and reign is good. We may have to stand in conflict with the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh when these war against the gospel. Such is a worthy conflict. Any other disruption is not only unworthy of Jesus’ followers, but destructive of the gifts and peace of Christ.