The Herd

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:2-3 KJV)

The herd. Every good business school teaches you ways to separate yourself from the herd. If you are going to land that job you have to have something that no one in that deep stack of resumes can offer. You need to find a way to distinguish yourself from everyone else looking to do the same thing. The same seems to go in selling your product or service. Somehow you need a unique icon, a trade marked name, and an exceptional spokesperson to capture that portion of the customer’s mind space so they will seek your products and services out. Why is this necessary? We actually feel like our survival depends on finding that niche or harbored section of the market that allows your business to thrive. Sure there is something good to be said for having to work hard to find that thing you are exceptional at. There is something rewarding in discovering just that thing that you are able to bring to market that no one else can touch. So, why would Paul tell those in Philippi to be of “one accord” or “one mind”?

Even more intriguing to me is why is was necessary to tell anyone to be of “one accord” or “one mind”. If we are “sheep” (see Matthew 10:16) then is it not the very nature of sheep to follow whatever seems to be moving? How does the term “one accord” or “one mind” differ from an idea of mindless adherence? “One accord” is most literally co-spirited. “One mind” is most like the independent organs of the body that receive unique instruction for their different tasks from the same head. This is quite different the every organ necessarily becoming the liver and forsaking the other essential tasks of the body. So why do sheep herd so? Sheep commonly have poor eye sight. It is for the common safety they come near each other and are willing to follow a voice that they trust as they have excellent hearing.

I think C.S. Lewis said it best in his book The Weight of Glory when he said, “Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality.” (pp. 167) He spent time in his chapter on membership distinguishing members from units. “It is like turning from a march to a dance.” (pp. 171) To me it is the difference between rubber stamped toy soldiers and real men in an armed service with different special operations working as a unit. It is the difference between a group of mechanics and individual technicians with unique specialties in brakes, alignments, tires, tune-ups, and A/C systems working together under a common service center roof. We can have a common like mindedness in securing a bridge. We can come together under a common understanding that the vehicle needs to leave the shop in better condition than it entered it. There is a difference between a mob and a community. “And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.” (Acts 22:22 KJV) Would you say at this point in Paul’s testimony that those who were listening were of one mind or of one accord? If so, what distinguishes this audience from the audience that he hopes to obtain from those reading this letter in Philippi? Uniformity reduces individualism. It makes rubber stamp units that are identical and happen to move in the same direction. In contrast, a body is made up of several organs each uniquely tasked that when they function together the body as a whole thrives.

So, why does Paul continue and specify that “nothing be done through strife…”? What is the difference between strife and one brother sharpening another (see Proverbs 27:17)? Where does strife enter? Strife enters when we think someone else on the team is not reading out of the same play book that we are reading out of. We begin to catch supervisor-itus by managing someone else’s specialties and neglecting our own. There is a reason why settling arguments between you and your brother begin by an exclusive conversation between you and your brother. You might feel out each other’s specialties and gain a respect for the other. If still unresolved, then you establish the witness so that you may have the outside encouragement you need to bring your uniqueness’s together. At last resort you escalate it to the body. Not so much for condemnation (although that is a distinct possibility), but for the widest possible perspective on the issue and for the best possible resolution. We do not just assume the guy on the other side is immediately a heretic and start throwing rocks at him. Working in one accord requires an amazing amount of surrender to keep your eyes focused on Jesus and His Word. Not to mention an enormous trust that the guy next to you is doing the same thing. We have to be committed to the play book even if it seems like no one else is. Being of one accord is spending increasing amounts of time in the Word to realize the importance of staying in the same Word. When we are all in the same Word our individual talents can shine the brightest and the strife between us is least. We have to surrender completely to an understanding that God really will make a way.

“Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 KJV)

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