3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This conversation came at the end of a week-long, near-continuous fight my oldest and my youngest sons.
But, in a moment of clarity my oldest son, Elijah, decided to step out in a beautiful moment of leadership and said to his brother, “Sebastian (who is the youngest), we have been fighting a lot lately, and I am wondering if you would be willing to work together and work through our problems. Would you be willing to do that with me?” With barely a pause Sebastian provided a matter of fact “…nnno.” Elijah was taken back. He wasn’t expecting Sebastian to say “no” to what he thought was such a reasonable request. Elijah asked, “Is there a reason why you won’t do that with me?” I looked up into my rear-view to see how he was going to answer. His head was back against the seat and his eyes went back and forth a few times. Then he sighed and said, “I just want to do fun things.”
Seeking unity isn’t always one of the fun things in life. But it is possibly one of the most meaningful and important activities as we follow Jesus.
Emptying ourselves like Jesus did is a difficult, costly, and high calling that very few of us pursue with any regularity. Self-sacrifice can be such an imposing and difficult proposition that we often say, “Forget it. It’s too complex. It’s too hard. It’s too costly.”
When we come face to face with a person or a situation that threatens our vital sense of who we are, what do we usually do? We get defensive. Put up boundaries. We draw hard lines. The thought of emptying ourselves for another person doesn’t even enter the grid at first. Why do our minds immediately self-protect? I think it is because we know that others are like us. We know they are NOT going to put our interest first.
We all too often disregard the image of God in one another. We speak poorly to one another, break promises, fail to respond or reciprocate love and affection toward one another. We ignore each other’s requests or forget each other’s priorities. We put burdensome responsibilities on others and make excuses for not upholding our own. Over the course of time, as enough of these interactions happen, we begin to wonder if any of us really have any value to anyone at all and start fending for our own self-interest.
But Jesus is different. Jesus, the one who made all things, preferred to give power away over taking power for himself. He considered the interest of others and obedience to his Father as more important than his own interests. Most of all, he knew who he was. He had confidence in the Father’s love for him and confidence that obedience to his Father would restore and do the most good for others.
Imagine yourself walking into that interaction knowing that the most important and vital parts of your identity are secured and held by the heavenly Father. They cannot be taken away. In Christ you are loved, worthy of dignity and honor, made in the image of God. You don’t have to fight anymore, you are free to love others with abandon.
God is on your side. If he is for you, no one can be against you or ultimately harm you (Rom. 8:31). If you walk into your next disagreement with this mind-set (the Mind of Christ), it will free you up to lay your interests down because you have nothing to lose. The Father already has them secured. The gospel gives us courage to face into the most difficult part of living the Christian life—sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.
Following Christ is not for the faint of heart, and it is indeed costly. But in the end, bringing love, dignity, and honor to others is well worth the cost. This is how Jesus lived, and he calls us to do the same. True love and glory comes when we lay down our rights for the good of others.