I once heard a definition of the difference between obedience and submission. A child is obedient if he/she obeys you when in your presence. A child is submitted if he/she obeys you when you are absent. Another way to think about this? Do your children fight like crazy every time you are absent?
Philippians 1:27-28 (NASB)
27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
Paul had a specific concern. News of conflict between the Philippian believers had been reported to Paul. Paul addresses this conflict in several places, but here he encourages them to stand together. He encourages them, that they are to behave regardless of whether he is there to lead. They are to function out of unity, not out of Paul’s presence. To fail to do so would hinder their steadfastness, the gospel, and their ability to stand against opposition.
It is the Holy Spirit that brings unity. We are one because He makes us one. Conflict can be a huge barrier to all things. It gives us a bad attitude. It drives a wedge that keeps us from solving issues and moving forward. It overshadows teaching and learning. It is a huge barrier to the gospel. Paul wants them to be able to solve conflict in a timely manner without his specific intervention.
What can happen if we resolve our conflict to the extent to be of the same spirit and the same mind? This passage encourages the believers to “stand firm” and “strive together”. We can be fiercely independent. It seems unamerican to depend on someone or something besides yourself. But, humans were designed for community. We thrive when we interact with each other. It requires that we do some due diligence in the maintaining of those relationships, but when we do, we flourish. We face a great deal of opposition. This is true of all people, not just Christians. When we come together in the same spirit and the same mind we have each other to “strive” with and to “stand” with. Just like an lone soldier, or an animal at the mercy of a wolf, we will not last long alone. We need each other to move forward and we need each other to hold our current ground. We can do more, withstand more, and enjoy life more if we will give priority to staying on the same side rather than opposing one another.