The Same Love

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1,2).
As I write this I am listening to a recording of Bengali classical flute music. I am interested in the many different kinds of music in the world. Music itself is a constant. It is my understanding that all cultures have it in some form. But the instruments and styles of playing differ greatly. The music of Europe, North America, South America, India, China, and other places varies greatly. Also within each culture there may be much difference in popular, classical, and folk music, to mention only a few types.
Music is simply illustrative of the many differences that exist within and between human societies and cultures. Art, language, food, humor, and every other aspect of life demonstrate similar distinctions. Yet we all eat, talk, and enjoy culture and entertainment. Even within our differences there is common ground.
Which is most important? Do we as people focus more on what we share with others, or how we differ? The answer to this question may determine our relationships and our ability to benefit one another. Wars, arguments, hatred and disagreements in general tend to focus on differences. They emphasize one’s own needs and desires and contrast them with those of others. James asks, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members” (James 4:1)? Though his primary emphasis is the power of uncontrolled desire, he also points out the role of selfishness. I fight with you over what I want, not because of desire for you to profit. Difference divides, isolates, and makes enemies. We see this often in the demonstrations and rioting of special interest groups who subjugate the good of the society as a whole to their own particular cause.
Paul’s exhortation to Christians is startling in its contrast. “Have the same love.” That is, let each one of you feel the same towards others. Be one, be alike, and be in harmony and love with one another. This is made possible only when we focus on our commonalities, not our differences. We may be of different colors, languages, and customs, but we are all of the same blood and flesh and bone. We may have distinctive tastes and habits, but God made us all, and Christ died for all. Can we not focus on those great similarities, and overlook the little petty things in which we are distinctive? Is this not the appeal of the Spirit, who said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)?
There are many kinds and styles of music. Yet we know music is being played when we hear it, regardless of how different it may seem to what we are accustomed to. There is a common element which defines it, and which creates in virtually all styles certain responses within the hearer. So there are differences between people, but none that prevent our mutual recognition and the exchange of “the same love.”

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