The word for the day is “mind.” In today’s reading of Philippians 1:27-2:4, St. Paul begins to instruct his beloved congregation at Philippi on the way of life of the citizens of the Kingdom. The Apostle writes, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear that you stand fast in one spirit, with “one mind” striving together for the faith of the gospel” (vs. 27).
The Conduct of the Fellow-citizens of Kingdom
Paul has disclosed his uncertainty about whether he will survive his trial. But to reassure his favorite church, he raises the hopes that he will come to see them again. Meanwhile, however, they are to be “worthy of the Gospel” in their conduct. The word for “conduct” here is a complex term that refers to the proper behavior of citizens of a state (Strong’s #4176, 206). In this sense, Paul addresses the Philippians as “fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
Citizens of a country have a typical manner of being in the world. For example, Americans have certain identifiable characteristics. So do those who belong to the “holy nation” of the reign of God (1 Peter 2:9). Paul advises that the “People of God” should be known for their distinctive unity. They are to be of “like-minded, of one accord,” and of “one mind” (vs. 2:2).
Christ does not call the members of His Body to be the same. Rather, Paul teaches that they are like separate parts of the physical body. He asks rhetorically, “If the whole body were eyes, where would be the hearing? (1 Cor. 12:18). Moreover, Paul writes that these members have different spiritual gifts. According to the Apostle, “…one and the same Spirit works… distributing to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
Oneness of Mind Means Singleness of Purpose
So then what unites the individuals who make up the whole church? In verse 27, the Apostle writes they are bound together with the “same love.” They are “of one accord” (vs. 2:2). Thus, believers share the same agape love of God. And they have the same sentiment or attitude ( Strong’s 4861, 239).
But the crowning characteristic of their unity is that they have the “same mind.” Twice Paul uses the forms of the same Greek word for this thought. The ““one mind”” that the believers have in common does not have the exact thoughts. But this “mind” thinks in a single direction. (Strong’s #5426, 266-67). Again, in verse 27, the OSB translates the Greek word psuché as “one mind”.” This word refers to the soul, the seat of the affections, feelings, and desires (Strong’s #5590, 273). The use of this term suggests that the “one mind” is set on common aspirations.
In summary, we might say that when the members of the Body of Christ have “one mind,” they set their hearts on the same thing. They are united in a common direction of the will. They are bound together in mutual understanding and singleness of purpose.
In his Conferences, John Cassian speaks about this sense of oneness. He advises, “’For the Lord makes men to be of one mind in a house’ (Ps. 67 (68):7). And therefore, love can only continue undisturbed in those in which there is but one purpose and mind to will and to refuse the same things” (NfPf2: 450). For example, Paul refers to one purpose that should unite the minds of believers. It is “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (vs. 27). Cassian speaks of another source of togetherness, the “like-mindedness and common purpose of concern for progress in the spiritual life” (NfPf2:451)
Our study of today’s readings suggests an essential characteristic of the unity of the church. It is a common sense of aspiration, intention, and mission. As Cassian suggests, the failure to nurture like-mindedness explains why churches become divided. Indeed, there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:5). But those who profess the faith achieve a lasting unity only when they direct their hearts toward one overriding purpose. This principle also applies to the family, which is a “little church.” When the family members work together to establish mutual values and goals, they grow strong in harmony and closeness to one another.