The Beauty of a Unified Pursuit
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
I’ve been reading some in The Message over the past week - Eugene Peterson’s adaptation of Scripture into common language - and have found it incredibly life-giving. There is a part of me that can read Paul’s letters and forget the context of the churches who were receiving them - filled with confusion, questions, brokenness - looking to each other to work together and live out what Paul was challenging in them.
This week, I’ve been staying in Philippians 3, specifically the following section:
“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them...But there’s far more to life for us.”
It’s not uncommon to be in situations where everyone is looking at everyone else for what to do next. If a leader doesn’t step up, there is a weird sort of ‘group-think’ that settles in. We revert to what makes us comfortable as individuals and without being pushed, we fail to consider what could be better for all of us.
It’s hard in the middle of conflict or crisis to remember that more exists than just our own thoughts and feelings. All of us, even leaders, have some element of wanting someone else to take control or responsibility - relieving us of the weight that comes from taking ownership. But I think this is precisely why Paul was reminding the Philippian church again and again: We’re in this together! Don’t forget you don’t have to take it all on yourself!
For a people pleaser, who wants to be a leader, this is a soothing and terrifying word to me. Soothing because the pressure I put on myself to ‘get it right’ or always be the one who is challenging, speaking up (even when I have no idea what I’m doing…) - that pressure starts to subside when I realize God has given me brothers and sisters who are also called to help me carry the mantle of Kingdom growth. It’s terrifying because I don’t know how to let go.
Put simply, I like to think I can do it better myself. I like the feeling of control I get from taking charge and being ‘the leader.’ I was challenged by an individual much wiser than me this year to never be too important for something. If a group, meeting, function...anything...can’t survive without me, I’m not building it correctly. Similarly, I like the idea of unity - I want to talk about it, tell people how to pursue it, and set all kinds of goals for hitting it (kinda ironic that I’m writing about it huh…) But, like the quote above, it’s not the focus on the unity itself that brings us together - it is the pursuit of God.
There is beauty in all of us pursuing the same goal. There is a better life for us in pursuing this together.
So how can we better push each other to take part? How can we better draw out the skills of those around us, even when it means inefficiency? This is not to discredit natural leaders who God has uniquely gifted to lead...but Paul’s call to the Philippian church is to remember the body around us - built of many different good and unique gifts - all pursuing the same goal.
For me personally, I think it means I have to be willing not to lead something just because I can. I have to be ok letting someone else take charge even if I would have done it differently...quicker…better. It is more important that we move forward unified than for more to get done. The expectations of God’s Kingdom are not measured by human standards of more and better. So we have a unique opportunity to experience God through being open to the process. The process of staying together - not being persuaded by these other paths, and the people who beckon us to follow them. May we stay unified, pushing each other to know God more in that process, leaving behind our desires for better and more that get in the way. What does it look like for you to pursue the same goal with your community this week?