February 9, 2010

To Live is Christ — interested in others

If I had to pick one passage from the New Testament that describes what it means “to live is Christ” it would have to be this one:
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, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. . . . (Philippians 2:1–5)
If my relationship with Christ means anything, then it ought to show up in my relationships with others. A professed faith in Jesus means nothing without visible evidence.

This evidence is briefly described in these verses, yet books could be written (and have) about the way these characteristics should be demonstrated — or not. As given here, the big barriers to being like Jesus are selfish ambition and vain conceit or more simply, wanting what I want because I think I am better than I am, and certainly more deserving than other people. This is playground childishness, yet I know from experience that growing up spiritually isn’t as easy or as common as growing up physically.

The evidences for maturity include tenderness and compassion that flow out of humility. I cannot be tenderhearted or even feel compassion toward others if my heart is proud and filled with my personal agenda. I need humility. The best definition for it is not that I think that I a terrible person, but that I don’t think about myself at all. This is the attitude that Jesus has.

Looking to the interests of others does not mean I neglect things like breakfast and brushing my teeth. As these verses say, “you should look not only to your own interests” leaving room for the necessities of life. However, the more important thing is the need and interests of others. This is not a meddling, nosy attitude, but one of genuinely caring, being involved, being quick to see if a person is joyful (so I can rejoice with them) or weeping so I can come alongside and give them support.

I get tested on this every single day. From phone calls to email requests, to all sorts of communication vehicles, I am exposed to the interests of others. Sometimes their interests conflict with mine, or are boring to me, yet Christ would care about those things, and He wants me to do the same.

For instance, I have a friend that talks about nothing else except her hobby. Even if my interest was there, the topic gets old after a while. Selfishness prods me to want to discuss other things. To live is Christ bids me to listen and be genuinely interested in what she cares about.

This is a daily challenge, but there is a fringe benefit. Because I know Jesus is like this, I can talk to Him about anything and be certain that He not only hears me but cares about the things I care about. There is no detail of my life that He will dismiss because it is trivial or boring.

I’ll be spending a few days in this passage, and even though it is a favorite and one I have memorized, I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit has many more great truths to give me from these verses.

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