While I was awake early one morning, this passage from Philippians came to mind. The theme of what I read has barely left my mind for weeks now:
Therefore if there is any encouragement and comfort in Christ [as there certainly is in abundance], if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship [that we share] in the Spirit, if [there is] any [great depth of] affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility], who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted; but emptied Himself by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of humanity.
– Philippians 2.1-7
I can’t remember the last time I read or heard this passage. It is such a passionate plea for unity. Today, the task of “being of the same mind” seems hopeless. We so clearly define our identities by which side of any number of lines we fall: liberal, conservative, pro-gun, anti-gun, spiritual, religious, gay, straight, etc. Our identities are defined by which side of the various lines we fall, breeding division.
Thinking about this divide brought to mind some friends of ours whom we likely fall on opposite sides of with many opinions, but we have grown closer in our relationships. I was describing our relationship to some other friends, saying that while we had many opposing theologies, opinions, and so on, we “share a North Star: God is Love.”
Our perspectives may legitimately be from opposing sides of the hemisphere, but we have True North in common and seek for our lives to be directed and guided by It. As a result, we grew close by talking about a wide range of real-life circumstances and situations, like, family, ministry, neighbors, friendships, and a lot more. This shared North Star bridged all of the differences. We were people of the same mind; the same goal, destination, and aim. Our North Star is Jesus: the manifestation of God’s unlimited, eternal, and transcendent Love.
Culturally, “Jesus” is often a dividing line, rather than a unifier. We reduce Jesus to a history lesson that you either believe fully (and mostly blindly) or discard entirely, which could not be further from Christ's goal. Jesus, as it pertains to Christianity and His message, is an individual and collective journey of growing freedom and intimacy with God, each other, and ourselves.
When Jesus is our North Star, our trajectory is to love as boundlessly and actively as Christ; forgive as readily, freely, and concretely as Christ; live as fearlessly, generously, and humbly as Christ; to accept the presence and healing of our Intimate God as intrinsically and wholly as Christ. Whatever desire contradicts this destination of oneness between our personal and collective selves and Christ becomes abandoned.
It is not an easy faith. We all have tremendous, personal reasons to not love boundlessly, not forgive freely, not live fearlessly, or not accept the simplicity of God’s presence. It is the challenge of committing ourselves to our North Star: Love (with a capitol L) bridging any and every divide that our woundedness and ego can muster.
Having a “North Star” requires dedication with my attention and intention. Those two resources are the most powerful gifts that every person has. They are the tools that build and tear down our lives. What we give our attention and with what intention, shapes our minds and lives.
When we give God our whole attention, and our intention is simply for the love of Christ in all and through all, we are one with God and each other. When our attention and/or intention are out of sync, we lose our course, like two wheels aiming different directions. And if we only casually or periodically refer to our North Star, we will incessantly live lives off the course. We must engage our attention and intention on our North Star with constant dedication.
Once we do, we start revealing what has been our north star(s). We all have other stars we use to guide us, but they shift and move and direct us in circles. We got lost. Paul goes on in Philippians 4.4-8 to describe in detail what fixing on our North Star with our attention and intention looks like:
Rejoice in the Lord always, delight, take pleasure in Him; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit, your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience, be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything, every circumstance and situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your specific requests known to God. And the peace of God, that peace which reassures the heart, that peace which transcends all understanding, that peace which stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, is yours. Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things, center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart.
What has guided you? What will be your North Star?