Good morning friends. Sometimes I do not like being challenged. Okay, you got me! I never like being challenged. It has taken me a lot of years to become the person that I am. I like being the person that I am, most of the time. So I do not approve of and am not comfortable with, people and things that challenge the current me to change. That is how I feel about Philippians 2 this morning. You cannot tell me that you can read this chapter and feel totally satisfied with yourself:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, v. 1
I want to stress the word "any" here. We are being set up. Paul is not addressing the mature in Christ; he is calling the attention of the followers who have received any benefit from Jesus. Have we received even a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of comfort, a little bit of fellowship, a little bit of tenderness and compassion. In other words, if you have received any benefit from this relationship with Jesus, then:
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. v. 2
Well, that is not too bad. Since we have all benefited from this relationship with Jesus then we have these things in common. It means our unity should be a simple matter. If I share these benefits that we have received from Jesus with you then it should be possible for us to share the same perspective on things. We are also told to love as we have been loved so it should not be hard to share in this love with each other. Then Paul repeats himself from the first chapter but we can see how it fits, being one in spirit and purpose. This spirit is not the Spirit but it is more like the "spirit of the law" or the intention. So we should share the same intention and purpose because really our life is now spent living God's intention and purpose or, the mission. So this is not too bad. When we start with the common ground of shared benefits from our relationship with Jesus we can see how this type of unity is possible. But now Paul pulls out the big guns:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. vs. 3-4
Now hold on a second here. I can understand this whole thing of unity from our common experience and benefit but is this not going too far? I am willing to consider my brothers and sisters equal to me. I can handle the whole "everyone is equal in Jesus" but I draw the line at considering people better than myself. Paul is being reasonable with telling us to look to the interests of others while we are considering our own interest, but making people better than me? That flies in the face of everything that my children and I have been raised on.Of course I am saying this tongue in cheek but you have to be honest, this is a challenge for us. Selfish ambition and vain conceit are not always evident when we are comparing ourselves to people just like us, or even worse than us. So then Paul takes care of that:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: v. 5
And just in case we are not sure what that attitude is:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! vs. 6-8
Now who of us is not struck by this? If we have benefited from Jesus' servant-like attitude should we not have this same attitude? Should we not want to benefit each other from our relationship with them by having the same servant-attitude toward each other? Servants are not equal to their masters but are beneath them and live to serve them. Servants consider those they serve to be better than themselves. Want to argue that? Then consider the fact that Jesus is equal to his Father yet let go of that right of equality for our benefit. He became a servant of the creation he created. So what is our problem with the creation becoming a servant to creation? If Jesus could do what he did out of love why can't we do a lesser thing from that same love?
Do you see how Paul sets us up here. Since you have benefited from Jesus sacrifice and have this thing in common, benefit each other with this same attitude of Jesus. Now comes the moment of truth; what is your attitude toward your fellow believers? Do you love those who are worthy of your love? Do you respect those worthy of your respect? Do you serve those who you feel deserving of your service? Remember what Jesus said about loving those who love you? He asked us where the challenge is in that. Real love is found when you love those who hate you. I say to you, a servant's attitude is found when we serve those who do not deserve to be served.. If our attitude needs to be the same as Jesus remember "while we were yet sinners he died for us". Jesus served those who were not worthy of his attention let alone love. Are you beginning to see the significance of this?
Consider others better than yourself. Do not be consumed by selfish ambition or van conceit. Love as Jesus loves. Serve as Jesus serves. Make your life a blessing and a benefit to anyone regardless if they are worthy of it or not. Imagine the Church if we were to take these words to heart and live them. Guess what folks, that is exactly what we must do, today. Do you feel challenged now? Are you still feeling satisfied with who you are? Well, I guess we have that in common as well.