“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, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2.1-4
It’s a challenge for me at times to put others interests above my own. In truth, I think of myself most of the time. What Paul is asking is not impossible, it’s just not very do-able for me. On my own strength, putting others above myself — even those whom I love and adore — is a challenge.
But the reality is, putting others interests first isn’t entirely up to me. This is why Paul prefaces his statements in v.3-4 with v.1-2 – “if you have encouragement from being united with Christ….any comfort from his love….any common sharing in the Spirit…then be like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” The ability to put others interests above our own doesn’t come from us. It comes through us from God to others. Let me repeat myself — through us, from God, to others.
My being united with Christ means I take on his nature, his character and share in his grace. My ”common sharing in the Spirit” suggests that the Holy Spirit is transforming me into his likeness. It’s no longer my own strength upon which I depend but the strength and influence of Christ. The more I hang out with Jesus, am filled with his Spirit, am joined with fellow believers in the work of the gospel, the more I become like him and the more I love others.
It’s always easy to love those who love us but rather more difficult to love those who reject us. Whether it be in work, school, ministry or life in general, attempting to love those who do not love us is a challenge. The question then must be raised — what is the purpose of putting the interests of our enemies above our own? So that all might be saved? So they too might experience the love of Christ and the fellowship of his offerings?
So my advice to myself and to you — love God more! By loving God more and better, we will then have the ability to love others as well and grow in strength and grace as we advance the Kingdom of God and make disciples for Jesus Christ.
“O Lord God, I am so grateful for your love and mercy. Thank you for loving me for I am often unlovable. Thank you for your power in my life and for indwelling me with your Holy Spirit. I know that I too am a sinner, saved by grace, working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Come now, Holy Spirit, help me be all you have called and created me to be. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen