Thoughts for tonight's Beta group. "Beta" being the logical name for a science graduate to give the course that comes after the Alpha course. A side benefit of doing a physics degree is that you become very familiar with the Greek alphabet. Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon...
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
<div class="indent">taking the very nature of a servant, <br>being made in human likeness.</div>
And being found in appearance as a man,
<div class="indent">he humbled himself <br>and became obedient to death-- <br>even death on a cross!</div>
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
<div class="indent">and gave him the name that is above every name,</div>
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
<div class="indent">in heaven and on earth and under the earth,</div>
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
<div class="indent">to the glory of God the Father.</div>
"Like-minded" does not mean being a clone of the guy on the next pew. Neither does it mean "please leave your brain at the door." Are today's Christians "one in spirit and purpose?" What is our purpose?
It bugged me when Eric Raymond, near the end of a decent essay about Islam, in the second paragraph from the end, suddenly lumped Christianity in with Militant Islam saying:
Christianity, like Islam (and unlike almost all of the other religions of the world) has violent intolerance of other religions and the impulse to conversion by the sword wired into its doctrinal DNA. Most Americans have trouble believing the Koran means what it says about the duty of jihad because for most Christians, the parallel Christian duty to smite the infidel is a historical dead letter. But counterparts of al-Qaeda such as the Christian Identity Movement exist in the West, imbued with all of al-Qaeda's rage. Christian fundamentalists express the same hatred of modernity and determination to jam the world back into a medieval mold that motivates Osama bin Laden.
Where the heck did that come from? Maybe there is a parallel between the worst of those who claim to be Christian, and al-Qaeda, but how do you hardwire violence into something like the quote above? Peace in al-Qaeda terms sounds like everyone has been forcibly converted and lives under Islamic rule. What's a Christian definition of peace? Peace to me means not going out and picking a fight with someone, trying to find a fair and amicable solution to a disagreement, not having to defend yourself at every turn. Not violence. We're not here to "smite the infidel," we have a much harder job to do: love them as Christ loves us, up to and including dying for them.
This week's chapter in Nicky Gumbel's "A Life Worth Living." is called New Attitude. The attitudes Paul mentions in Philippians 2: 3-4 are selfish ambition, vain conceit, and self-centeredness. The opposites of these are non-selfish ambition, humility, and putting others before ourselves. Does our own status really matter that much? Our rights?
Paul was in a Roman jail, chained to a four different guards in each 24 hours. And he was content, just concerned for the Philippians that something was wrong in their congregation. I've got a long way to go.