“Instead of each person watching out for their own good,
watch out for what is better for others.”
Philippians 2:4 (Common English Bible)
Here is a warning against the perils of self-centeredness. These few words are an invitation to creative imagination – to look at life through the windows of another. Those of one political party would do well to consider the perspective of another, the conservative follower of Christ would experience treasure in an exploration of the faith of a liberal and vice versa. The Apostle Paul calls the faith community to place aside the microscope that provide close inspection of self and learn the use of the telescope for the discovery and observation of others. In the exercise of a wider vision, new insights and discoveries of our common humanity will present themselves in the eye and heart. It is then that we begin to realize the immensely complex and varied life in which we share. Simple ideologies betray the richness of the human capacity to imagine bold experiments in how we might live together.
Paul’s words have a particular freshness and relevance in the Christian Church today. Fellowships of Christians are separated from one another by barriers and divisions. With no windows opening out into wider fellowship, producing expanded understandings, faith can only supply a stunted spirituality. Each fellowship has a particular treasure and a peculiar defect. The strength of the one Christian Church in the world – the church catholic – is the shared treasure of each unique fellowship holding solidarity with one another. In the shared fellowship and common witness to the Lordship of Jesus each peculiar defect is walled-in and limited. The promise of such fellowship is a richly textured, full-bodied maturity in Christ.
The wonderful preacher, J. H. Jowett once shared that no one can lift his own powers out of comparative babyhood by the strength of their own original resources. As plants are raised into strength, and symmetry, and beauty by surrounding them on every side with the fellowship of sky, cloud and nutrient-rich soil so our faith experiences strength and beauty by communion on every side with the views and perspectives that differ from our own. We are called then, suggests Jowett, to the ministry of imagination – to humility in our own understandings and openness to the reason of others.