There was division and dissension in the church at Philipi when Paul wrote this letter. Two of the ladies (I can see them now), probably strong-minded and willful, had disagreed on some point. The rift grew between them and started to fracture the congregation.
That happens when people focus on the differences between them and on the ugliness each of us shows.
But Paul is telling them to focus on the good things. Our minds naturally dwell upon the things that are important to us. But the reverse is also true. We begin to become the things we let our mind dwell upon.
My friend and I meet weekly, to visit, to encourage one another, to talk about the Lord. We do not always agree. She sees things from one perspective. I see them from another. But we do not argue. She allows me my focus, and I respect hers. Frequently we edify one another because between the two of us, we have a binocular vision of what the Lord is doing in our lives.
When she is in the middle of a crisis, she doesn't see the hand of the Lord working because of the stress of the crisis. I can see through her crisis to a plan that the Lord might have for her. The reverse is also true. When I'm in crisis, I see mostly the crisis, not the eternal perspective. She helps me put a different spin on the matter.
Frequently we agree to disagree - that is to hold different opinions of a matter. We are both aware that our opinions are not God's law - they are merely personal interpretations of the facts. Both of us are old enough and wise enough to know that we are not the ultimate authority.
So she thinks about the things in me that are good. And I think about her good points as well. We are, in the best sense, sisters in Christ.
But if we each focused on the short-comings of the other, we would never have become friends. I have way too many faults. And even she has her share. I recognize her failings, much as I recognize my own. But I don't labor the point either with her or myself.
Together, we have become better people, with fewer faults than we each had at the outset. Focusing on the good, the true, the praise-worthy, we have gained some of those virtues. I sincerely hope we can gain more of these virtues to swallow up our remaining faults.
Thank You for putting Your church together with diverse people. Help us to see the good in all the members of Your body. Keep us focused on building one another up so that the church is strengthened.
In Jesus' most precious name.