Read Philippians 1:6; 2:1-11; and Philippians 4:6-7
Following Jesus is hard. It will eventually cost us. The book of Philippians does not shy away from this. Instead, it calls us into it. Philippians 2:1-4 gives the demanding yet straightforward command to consider others as more important than ourselves. Practically this leads to the problems of others becoming our own (Phil. 2:4).
Even thinking about doing this is hard. I know it is for me. While it sounds great on paper, practicing this type of love is scary. We face the genuine proposition of being taken advantage of.
We risk losing power, influence, leverage, and wasting precious resources we may have worked very hard to earn for ourselves. It will cost us, and this should not come as a surprise. Paul clearly shows us that Jesus loved this way and that it cost Him. In my experience, when reminded of this, we often convince ourselves that we are off the hook here. After all, Jesus' love flows from His divinity. He is God, and we aren't so certainly God doesn't expect or desire us to love with a Divine love?
Our natural tendency to shy away from this type of love lays at the heart of our salvation. Jesus delivers us from our brokenness. He delivers us from all that goes against what it means to be a creature made in God's image. He frees us from our tendencies towards self-preservation and selfishness. God is making us new by making us like Him. We should expect then that He is going to make us the types of people that sacrificially give of ourselves in love for one another because this is who He is. This is scary because we don't want to do it. Yet this is the beautiful mystery of the ethic of Jesus. To find yourself, you must give yourself away. To gain life you must lose it.
Hearing this, I am tempted to either feel shame and guilt for not doing any of it very well or to get caught up in trying to become a morally better person by sheer force of will. Jesus calls us to neither of these extremes. Go back and re-read Philippians 1:6. All of what Paul says in the remainder of Philippians must pass through the truth that God has divinely empowered and enabled you. His Spirit is working in you and will continue to do so until Jesus returns and makes us and the rest of His creation whole. This gives rise to his later encouragement in Philippians 4:6-7. Jesus does not invite us to shame or moral obligation; we are invited to partake of the Spirit, to allow Him to renew and restore our hardened hearts until we begin to see others the way He does. Until then, our job is not to try harder or shame ourselves in some twisted act of penance but to come to God with open hands and hearts, letting his Spirit transform us. From this place we offer our requests to God, knowing He works within us to remake us.
We come to Him and ask Him to do this work He has promised He would do, and we should expect Him actually to do it. Let's seek God and recognize our need for Him to change us. Let's also be attentive to those opportunities to be who we were always meant to be when given a choice. Let's choose others over self, sacrificial love over self-love. It is scary, but we can trust Jesus and lean on the fact that His Spirit works in us to both want and enable us to do this. Similarly we believe His Spirit works among us to empower and enable others to love us in this way. As a community, what would happen if we actually did this? If we loved each other the way Jesus loved us? I believe we would see a clearer picture of who we are meant to be as a church, and as individuals.
Let’s Live Into This Today:
Spend a moment meditating on the fact that the Spirit of God dwells in and among you. How can you better remind yourself and those around you that this is true today? Do something practical for your friends, family, or HUB group. Put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, send a text, or write a note reminding them of this.
Spend some time asking God to show the relationships you're currently in where you tend to consider yourself superior rather than seeing the other person as better than you. Ask God to do a miracle in your heart, and the heart of the other person. Ask Him to show you ways you can begin to actively and selflessly love this individual.
Finish by thanking God for His salvation. Thank Him that he has not left you as you are and that He and His Spirit are actively making you new, even now. Believe this and trust this today.