If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
If that’s not a counter cultural call to live differently I don’t know what is. “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.” You may be thinking that this is definitely counter the “secular” world but what we are missing is that it subverts much of the way Western Christians think of themselves too.
I think about many of the recent debates about ridiculous things that have spawned over the last eighteen months. Too often the Christian has been on the side of thinking of ourselves and demanding our personal rights. We have strayed long and far from the place of Philippians of 2:1-11.
Paul writes, “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” This is tough stuff. It’s brutal when we consider the reality that so many of us are more concerned with “defending my rights” and “getting our (sic) own advantage” than we are with putting ourselves aside.
If we are going to have the mind of Christ it demands that we practice self-forgetfulness which leads us to a selflessness. It was this kind of living that lead the Christians of the Middle Ages to care for the sick during the black plague. It was this kind of perspective that drove people like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day to care for those on the fringes.
I find that this battle is waged within me constantly. The desire to get my own advantage is fighting against my desire to practice self-forgetfulness like Christ has displayed.
Whose advantage do you care most about? How do you go about practicing self-forgetfulness? What does it look like for you to be selfless?