The very thing that hampers unity is the self; selfish ambitions inhibiting individual persons. This causes fragmentation of a team, group, a unit, in moving purposefully towards a goal. If situations such as this happens it will ultimately lead to failure and disintegration of the group.
Paul calls for unity among the believers in Phillipi (e.g. Phil 4:2). He firstly points to the shared benefits in Jesus experienced by the believers found in 2:1 to be joined together with them being united together in 2:2. All this points to unity. In verse 3 it is the self disconnected from the plight of the community that causes friction and eventual death of unity.
Paul points to the attitude of the mind in Christ as a ‘remedy’ to how they should be in relation with each other. With this we can ask questions such as “What sort of attitude is needed or spoken of here? Is it humility, servant-hood, obedience which is taken in the context of Jesus’ relationship to the Father?”
Earlier, if we read through 1:12-27 we can find echoes of Paul’s own example as he lays out 2:6-8, in that we find Paul’s resolute obedience and his servant-hood towards Jesus and the Gospel, being a humble follower regardless of the hardships experienced by him.
In 1:12-14 we find Paul telling them of his imprisonment. It did not hamper him nor the Gospel message he was entrusted to proclaim and defend. Instead his situation advanced the Gospel as people come to know that he was put in prison because of Jesus. And in his imprisonment also it made others more bold in proclaiming the Gospel.
In v.15-18, the plight of others did not dampen him. So were said to speak out of motives of rivalry as opposed to some who had pure ones. But Paul doesn’t seem to care that much as long as Christ is preached, and he seems to be joyful of that.
In v.18b-26, Paul is certain that through prayer he will be delivered. But he seems to have two implied meanings to it. Either delivered physically or spiritually. But it seems this did not bother him. Because in v.21 he said “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
In v.27-30 Paul urges them, the Philippians to live lives worthy of the Gospel. This should not be done sparingly but whatever situations the call to do so still applies. Examples of this can be seen in v.29 or in 4:13.
In these progressive verses we see a man who is a servant, humble and obedient to the plan of God; of the Gospel. It talks about someone whose attitude has been engulfed and taken captive by Christ. An attitude needed for Gospel advancement and to proclaim Jesus as Lord.
Coming back to 2:6-8, Jesus’ attitude was that of being at one in purpose for God’s plan, in that it required a single minded devotion to it. And so in Jesus’ attitude to God’s plan he humbled himself, found in the form of a servant, he obeyed to the point of death on a cross. Jesus was without any self motives of his own, he abandoned that and put on an attitude that complied with God.
So, it comes again to us, the question about attitude needed for unity. Sure humility is needed, sure servant-hood is needed, sure obedience is needed but we have to come to see them as having a purposeful end. Being humble for the sake of being humble is nothing, and that applies to being a servant and obedience as well. I see it more like Paul telling them, in keeping united, in one mind, it is for the sake of the Gospel, for the plan of God to ‘succeed.’
The call for us to be a community that is united is not for maintaining harmony or peace but for the sake of proclaiming the message. Without unity, no one will see the message. Without unity the message cannot be carried out. It is for the sake of Jesus we remain a community for the Gospel.