If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NRSV)
We are born into a life of self-centeredness.
One of the first words kids learn is a word that parents despise hearing: “Mine!” Babies are born into this world extremely self-centered — that is their nature. Their cries communicate that their needs are not being met: I need my diaper changed, I’m hungry, I’m scared, I want that. Hopefully, they grow out of it, but sometimes they do not.
Self-centeredness is bound up in our nature. It is a good thing when it is concerned with the basic necessities of life, food, shelter, etc. A healthy sense of self is needed to make sure these things are provided. However, once we live with other human beings, we find that this mindset will not serve us well. Human society works best when we remember that we are not the only ones with needs and desires.
Sometimes we can be like that in the church. Church become all about us, our needs, our wants, our comfort, our ideas. Jesus, however, says that when we choose to follow him, we give up our rights and privileges. The only one with rights and privileges in the church is Jesus who is Lord of the church.
How should we respond?
The best way to illustrate the attitude followers of Christ should exhibit is found in Philippians 2:1-11. Here, Paul admonishes us not to be only concerned about ourselves but do things that benefit others as well. He then gives us the example of Jesus himself in what could have been an ancient hymn of the church.
In this hymn, we are reminded that Jesus was, in fact, God, but that he did not cling to his rights and privileges as God. He gave up all of that for the sake of lost humanity. Notice how the hymn goes:
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death
— even death on a cross. (Phil 2:7-8)
Jesus stepped out of his rights and privileges as God and descended a long stairway that ended with the most horrific death a person could imagine. And he did this not for his benefit, but for ours.
Paul reminds us that this is the attitude we should have as followers of Christ in the church. This attitude dismisses selfishness and conceit and promotes humility and unity.
This Sunday we will talk about how these ideas can be lived out in our lives and our fellowship as the congregation of Navarre United Methodist Church. Join us!