Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
- Phillipians 2: 1-5
A friend of mine recently caught my attention when he posted about part of this verse on Facebook. I decided to look it up in my handy dandy Bible and found the rest of it and been reflecting on it since. I mean, it's kind of a long passage, and it kind of has a lot of really good stuff in it. So, as part of my effort to digest it all, I'm writing a little something here.
First of all, Paul starts out this chapter with an attention grabber. In my public speaking class I took my first semester in college, my professor (the Captain) told us that we should always start a speech with an attention grabber, such as a "Did you know...?" or some rhetorical questions. Paul takes the second option here. He is asking the Phillipians some questions, that he most likely did not intend for them to answer, since it was a letter and all, to grab their attention so that they could key in on the information. We know that when we are in a relationship with God that there should be encouragement from belonging to Christ and that we should have compassionate hearts. It makes sense. Paul is asking these questions to get the readers of the letters to focus in on what he's saying and not be all ADD.
In verse 2, Paul begins the movement towards his main idea. We might call this verse a supporting detail. Paul tells the Philippians that he (and more importantly God) would be happy if the people would get along. He wants them to agree with each other, love each other, and work with each other. He wants the people to come together for a single purpose. Any guesses on what that one mind/one purpose is? I'm pretty sure it has something to do with God. If we (as a body of Christ) were completely focused on serving the purpose of God and not the purposes of ourselves, I think that we would get along more and we would love each other more deeply. It only makes sense. Paul tells us how to do this (put the purpose of God above our own) in the next verse.
I believe that the main idea of this passage (verses 1-11) is found in verse 3. It says how we can live in a way that puts God's purpose first. And it doesn't sound that hard at first. The words are small and easy to understand, right? We just need to do this: "Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had." Okay....so. Don't be selfish. Don't try and impress others. Be humble. Think of others as better than you. Don't look after just your best interest. Be like Christ. Maybe it's a little harder of a concept to grasp when we really start thinking about it. I mean, I like my comfortable life. I like to get what I want. At times, I put myself first. This probably happens way more often than it should. I'm not always humble. I think that I'm the awesomeist sometimes. I put others down because of judgments I have made about them that normally turn out to be completely wrong. This is really hard. We live in a culture that tells us to be the best we can be and to take down anyone that stands in our way. We live in a culture that says that some people are better than others because of the color of their hair, or the car they drive, or the neighborhood they live in, or the school they go to, or the degrees they have, and so forth and so on. The world tells us that some people are better than others and that if you are one of those people than you should live like it. You should show off what you have. But, this is wrong. The world is wrong. The people who have the most in the world's eyes often have the least in the Kingdom of God. Jesus went as far to say that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God" (Matt. 20:23). I don't think rich just means money. It means possessions. It means having something that makes you feel like you can do it on your own and lessens your dependence on God. I think sometimes, that it would be easier to live a sold out life for Christ in a third world country. In some places, people depend on God for everything. That they would have food to eat. Clean water to drink. I think sometimes...we just don't get it over here because we have it all. Even the poorest of the poor in America have more than a majority of the world. Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 20 that in order to inherit the Kingdom of God, he needed to sell everything he had. But, the rich young ruler couldn't do that. He had placed his interest over the interest of Christ and that cost him. Are you willing to give up everything you have? Am I willing to give up everything I have? I don't have an answer. I'm embarrassed about that. I don't know what I would do if God told me tomorrow to jump on a plane and leave everything behind and follow him across the world to a place where I didn't speak the language or know anybody. I would freak out. I would probably panic. And I don't know if I would go? I mean, I need to finish school. I need to get that degree. I need to do my "to do" list. And then...then, I might have time for God. That's not what he wants. Deep inside, that's not what I want. I feel like there is something out there that if we listen for, God will show us where to Go. I don't think he's calling everyone to leave America and live among the impoverished. I mean, the global economy would collapse. :) Kidding, God would take care of that. But, you know what I'm saying. I don't think he necessarily wants everyone to go to Africa. But, I think he does want us all to care about the people living in poverty. I think he does want us to do what he leads us to do, whether that is sponsoring a child, or going on a mission trip, or sending money, or teaching bible school.
He wants us to be like Christ. No. I'm not perfect. Neither are you. But, he wants us to "give it our best shot". Put aside out worries for a second and think about others. He did it. He sent his son Jesus Christ to die a criminal's death on a cross when he did nothing wrong. Do you think this (living by putting God and Others first) is hard? Why don't you try dying on a cross? For doing nothing that is sinful. In the place of a whole bunch of sinful people, people that don't even appreciate the precious gift you've given them. He wants us to have the attitude of Christ, and Christ put others first, so we should also. Why is this so hard?