Hard to believe that it’s been nearly 40 years since Clint Eastwood uttered one of the most iconic lines in movie history: “Go ahead, make my day.” The American Film Institute ranks the catchphrase at #6 on its list of the 100 top movie quotes. The line is from the movie Sudden Impact, in which Eastwood plays “Dirty Harry” Callahan. It’s part of Callahan’s…um…unorthodox way of dealing with a hostage crisis: he simply threatens to blow the gunman away if he doesn’t let her go. (I’m guessing he was never called in to do hostage negotiations.)
There’s a sense in which Paul asks the Philippians to make his day, though of course he doesn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head:
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. (Phil 2:1-2, CEB)
“Complete my joy,” Paul says. Dirty Harry, of course, would never have said it that way, so let’s try another metaphor. Imagine a sumptuous meal, perhaps for a special occasion like your birthday. Everything is delicious, perfectly prepared. And just as you’re ready to sit back in your chair and sigh with satisfaction, someone brings out a luscious dessert, the perfect end to a perfect meal. It’s the cherry on top what was already wonderful in itself.
Paul is in chains for the gospel. You’d think he’d be despondent, but he’s not. He sees it as yet another opportunity for the gospel. He’s supposed to be the prisoner, but the soldiers chained to him were probably his captive audience. He’s received a gift of love from the Philippians, for whom he prays regularly. All of this gives him joy, and he’s told them so. Not moment-to-moment “happiness” perhaps, but a deeply satisfying sense that a gracious and loving God is still in charge.
“But you know what would really make my day?” he asks. “Knowing that you are all standing as one for the gospel.” As we’ve seen, Paul gives a string of ifs which carry the sense of since: “Since, in your situation, you already have encouragement in Christ, since you already draw comfort from God’s love, since you already experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, since you already feel affection and sympathy for me just as I do for you (cf. 1:8)…” The preconditions exist for the Philippians to go one step further and make Paul’s day, topping off his nearly full tank of joy.
Yet he doesn’t ask for something for himself; he’s already received their gift. He asks them to do something for themselves, and ultimately, for the progress of the gospel. In the face of persecution from their neighbors, the Philippians need to prioritize their unity and not let anything divide them. If two people in the congregation aren’t getting along, they need to work it out, lest their divisiveness begin little by little to undermine the cohesion of the whole.
To do this may require a shift in their way of thinking, a reexamination of their values and goals. And as we’ll see, that’s what Paul means by asking them to think the same way.