Not Who But How?
Read This Week: Philippians 2
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:1-4 NIV
We are so concerned with who is going to be in our lives. Think about it. Ever since we understood what a relationship is, our focus has been on the people who will be our friend, our date or our potential spouse. We have to find that person we click with or have an affinity for. We must locate the ones that meet our criteria and fulfill our expectations. If we don’t, we become frustrated, unfulfilled and depressed.
This happens at school, work, church, in the community and especially on social media. Our relational journey is controlled by who is and who is not in our circle or attached to us. Perhaps our focus should shift a little bit. The who question is still relevant because, without it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But what if we got a little more internally focused as opposed to looking at others all the time?
Think for a second if we became less obsessed with who is going to be our friend, date or spouse and began to focus on what kind of person we are supposed to be and how God has instructed us to act within relationships. Philippians 1:27 tells us that Christians should live in a manner worthy of the gospel and in Philippians 2, Paul outlines exactly what that looks like as we are empowered by Christ. From this passage, we see the traits and emotions that we should have and are necessary for wholesome relationships.
The characteristics that need to be present to achieve unity and harmony with others are encouragement, comfort, affection, sympathy, love, humility and sacrifice. He also makes sure to warn us of a few things we must not exhibit in relationships if they are going to be dynamic, healthy and God-honoring and those are rivalry, conceit, and selfishness.
If a person is regularly displaying (not without slipping or failing at times) the 8 characteristics and avoiding the 3 characteristics laid out in Philippians 2, they should have no problem finding, keeping and enjoying good relationships. It’s as simple as that.
An encourager who brings comfort, fights for unity, displays affection and sympathy while exhibiting God’s love in a humble and sacrificial manner is someone who will experience a life of deep relationships no matter where they go or what space they occupy. So, it becomes less about who we will be in relationship with and more about how we will act and behave in one.
All Christians must answer the call to live in a manner worthy of the gospel when it comes to being in community with others. We have a responsibility to contribute to the unity and oneness of God’s people while maintaining a healthy respect for and genuine interest in one another above ourselves as we express the love of Christ that redeems and transforms.
In our Bible study last night and at our men’s lunch hour today, one of the topics discussed was how we represent ourselves, God and the family of God. Paying it forward and doing it out of love and not self-centeredness. How awesome it is to be on a team that is in it to win it. People you can count on that love God as you do. Thank you God for who you are, all you do and all that you have given us.
I agree with this, Ken. I think one of the greatest things that we can pay forward on this earth is selfless acts of love and kindness to others as we represent Jesus. We live in a world where community is often forsaken for self-interest and is often neglected for vain pursuit and it really makes an impact when we love God and each other the way we were created to. It uplifts, encourages and emboldens our lives.
Your comment reminds me of the great quote by the poet Maya Angelou: “At the end of the day people won’t always remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” I want people to feel the love of Christ when they encounter me so they will be turned toward the heart of God when they remember our time together.
In reading Philippians 2, this is what I heard from God: Every Christian should know what it is to have my son, Jesus give them the comfort of love. I am the God of all comfort. My love in your life makes you strong and brave.
All Christians should know what it is to have the fellowship of the Spirit. It fills and guides and moves in your lives. My affection and mercy you know of. These are all the gifts you receive.
I want there to be unity among my people. Much of what you do is not out of love for others, but out of your own desire for advancement to promotion. I want you to glorify me and serve me with everything you have. Don’t think too highly of yourself, as that is out of My will. You should have a concern for other’s needs and concerns. If you consider other’s above you and they consider you above them, it creates a community where everyone is looked up to and no one is looked down on.
The mindset of Jesus Christ should also be in you. It is something you must choose to walk in. I want you to humble yourself in your obedience to me. You will glorify Me through humble service and endurance. The combination of tongues confessing and knees bowing, shows complete submission to my son, Jesus, both in word and action. I require it of all you.
Sometimes you show great concern for my work in others and not enough for my work in your own soul. Take comfort that I work in you. Keep drawing from my living well! By having a non-complaining spirit, you show yourself to be a true follower of mine. You are a light in the world. Shine bright!
So my takeaway from all of this is my motives and my heart should be right and pure, and I will glorify God in all that I do. I think it would be cool to be in a community with others where we all look up to each other and not down on anyone. I am being challenged to do this more. I need to pay more attention to God’s work in my soul and be less negative in my thoughts and words.
Thank you for sharing Kathy! I love hearing God through you. Every day, God does want us to choose Him and keep growing with Him. That’s so true.
Thank you for this insightful comment and takeaway from Philippians 2, Kathy! I was blessed and challenged by what the Holy Spirit spoke through you. I was especially struck by this point: “The mindset of Jesus Christ should also be in you. It is something you must choose to walk in.”
I love that Paul didn’t mean that we should aspire to the transcendent intellect of Jesus but that we should choose (as you said) with the Spirit’s help to have the same attitude toward God’s will and people that Jesus had. Christ was the perfect example of humility, sacrifice, and concern for the welfare of others that we are to display in our lives.
Jesus’ attitude toward God and people was one of self-giving at all cost and he proved it in his birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. He proved it in the gospel and gives us the ability through His power to act the same toward others. That’s an uplifting and encouraging thought that the attitude that led and guided Jesus can also lead and guide us.
That would certainly be quite the powerful, affirming and impactful community if we were all controlled by the same attitude as Jesus and compelled to express ourselves in the caring, loving and sacrificial way that He did.
I wrote a song this week while doing Bible study in Philippians 2:
We are connecting with the Lord
We are connecting with the Lord
We are connecting with our Lord
We are sharing his love, faith, and joy
We’re knitting our spirit in the Lord
Knitting our spirit together in the Lord
Spreading his great news great
Connecting, connecting with the Lord
Getting our peace, love, and joy
Connecting, connecting to our Lord.
I love the imagery of connecting to God and each other, Alma, especially the word picture of “knitting our spirits together in the Lord.” That means to literally join or connect two pieces to one another so as not to be separated. That is what Jesus did for us on the cross. He knit us together with God through the atonement of his shed blood and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Like your song says, that knowledge of God’s love for us gives us peace, love, and joy as we experience that connection with God and each other.
Today, as we were in church and reading Philippians 2, God was speaking to me about verse 7: “But stripped Himself (of all privileges and rightful dignity) so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.”
God was saying to me, I came to you in the form of a child because if I were to show you my true self, you would not be able to understand or comprehend it. I also humbled myself to that of a servant so that others would come to me and the Father and not to run away in fear.
As Jesus did, we must humble ourselves as Christians and be like servants to people in the world and to our family of God. We should build others up with the love and respect that Christ showed us so we can bring others to him. His true hope for us is to know Him and to be more like Him as we go through our lives.
I love your takeaway from verse 7, Sam. The example of Christ and his humility is convicting, sobering, challenging and inspiring all at the same time. When I read this verse, I am always moved by the truth that Jesus, in His humanity, did not assume some high and lifted up position when he arrived on the human scene. As you said, he was born as a lowly baby which set the tone for his humility and sacrifice.
He willingly surrendered the heavenly superiority of his gifts and allowed himself to be subject to the emotional elements of the world. He didn’t take a place of honor, authority and greatness among people, but from the manger to the cross, he walked a path of humility.
We have such difficulty with this concept and with that of servanthood as a way of life because we live in a society of power hunger, narcissism, self-interest, and promotion. We place a premium on human honor, attention, influence, and stations in life. Self-giving, humility, and sacrifice sound good in theory but is not allowed to affect our lifestyles.
But followers of Jesus are called to follow his incredible example of humility, graciousness and a servant’s attitude that goes counter to the culture and to our own tendencies as human beings. I, for one, am thankful for Jesus’ example to us because, without it, I would be lost.