Philippians 3:15-16, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Paul wanted the Philippian church to have patience with one another by remembering the Holy Spirit’s ultimate ability to change us all. We need to trust in the Lord, who loves to mature our faith. Yet, not just our faith, but that of our brothers and sisters who run this race alongside us. The Lord is a God who never leaves unfinished work. Remembering this allows us to avoid engaging others with an overly critical heart.
When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to be a basketball referee for the Special Olympics. I am not sure I’ve seen a more powerful display of communal unity than in those moments. We Christians could learn a lot about what a healthy church should look like by watching team events in a Special Olympic competition. Let me explain, while the game always had two different sides, two different opponents, when I officiated those games no matter which team scored, both teams celebrated. As each basket helped inch the game closer to its ultimate conclusion, the losing team continued to remain encouraged, and the winning team continued to value the players on the opposite side. There was no fear; there was no panic; there was no anger or animosity. Only shared joy for one another.
Now, as a referee for this unique league, I had been given strict instructions by the commissioner. We were to be gracious in how we officiated the games. We were not supposed to call every double dribble. We were not supposed to penalize each travel. We were only supposed to stop the game when the abuses got to the point where it affected the ability of the game to reasonably continue. So, if a player walked the ball halfway down the court without an attempt to dribble, a penalty was called. But if he moved his pivot foot to make a pass, we weren’t supposed to blow the whistle.
Yet, in every game, there were always parents who did not understand the grace we were asked to show as referees. They would begin to berate us, officials, saying things like “Come on Ref!, That’s a double dribble”, “Ref! They took an extra step, blow the whistle!”. Their constant criticism of the generosity and grace shown blinded them to the beautiful game that was unfolding right before their eyes. The charity made the game beautiful, especially the charity the players had for one another.
Christians are not called to be constant critics in a congregation. We’re called to not seek division. We’re called to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s steady work in our fellow brothers and sisters in faith. We are to find reasons to celebrate them and develop great bonds of agreement. Even in moments where we must defend the essential truths of the gospel, we are to do so, as Peter stated, with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
A quote for further reflection:
The apostle speaks of himself as both perfect and imperfect:
imperfect when he considers how much righteousness is still wanting in him,
but perfect in that he does not blush to confess his own imperfection
and makes good progress in order to attain it.