“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
(Philippians 2: 3-8 ESV)
Paul’s command for us to live selflessly is easy enough to understand. We should imitate Christ’s humility in His service to the Lord and to His children. Nobody questions that Christians should be paragons of humility, but to live out Paul’s command, not just to understand it, is much more difficult to practice. We are to imitate Christ’s love for God’s children by counting them more significant than ourselves even if we, by our own human estimation, do not see them as more significant than ourselves.
By one standard or another, people fall on a sliding scale of importance. I bet we have all taken a look at a brother or sister’s life and have deemed it less than our own lives or another’s. There is a certain reality that a pastor has more impact on the flock than say, the sister who is in charge of handling parking detail at church. Now take a look at where you are now and the position you fill at your local church. Can you count both of these people more significant than yourself? At RGC, we’re so small we don’t have someone who takes care of parking, so imagine someone filling a job we didn’t even need. Are we still counting them more significant than ourselves as we sing, write, lead, or just serve in the capacity that we do? The reality is that one person does a little more than the other, but all are placed by God to fulfill His purposes.
In an older post I wrote a couple months back, I talked about how our lives should be lived as worship to God, and how part of that worship is done by living out God’s command to love His children. Sometimes those God has placed in our lives are believers weak in the faith, and we can all be dismissive of them because of who they are at this present time. Worse yet, I have heard Christians call others useless and worthless. These are painful estimations other believers’ lives, estimations from people who presume too much, having forgotten God’s calling for their own lives.
When I was a freshman in college I had two roommates. One was a professing Christian and the other a nonbeliever, respectively, we’ll call them Ben and Jerry because those were totally not their names. The first day we met I asked them of their religious background so I could get my evangelistic battle plan ready. No more than five minutes after our introductions Ben announces his plans to drink excessively and have his face look like the bottom of an unkempt latrine, which became somewhat prophetic of our actual bathroom, because I was uninterested in mothering my roommates. He kept his word and engaged in other acts that sullied his ambassadorial role in Jerry’s life, and in so doing, reaped my ire.
I cared for Jerry and desired his salvation. I know that. But I also know I did not care for Ben’s. Regardless if his life did not reflect that of a young man made new in Christ, or that his superficial understanding of Scripture left more doubt that assurance in my mind of his faith, I never extended him any love. I was too quick to count him as lost and beyond correction. I hated him so much that I refused to listen to God calling me to be a Christ-like example to him as much as I was to be for Jerry. Maybe I can claim ignorance that I did not know the deeper points of Scripture, but on the Day of Judgment Christ will judge my heart, and He knows and I know that deep down, I chose to ignore my conscience to love Ben.
When we find ourselves in the company of brothers or sisters in the faith who are struggling with their old, sinful selves, it is not our place to decide their worth to God. Let’s remember that God has chosen us, besides ourselves and our sinfulness, to save us and call us His children. By no worth of our own, God sent Christ to die for all of us so that we might be united with Him and to live lives as God intended for us that glorify His name.
For however long it may be, God has placed people in our lives that we are to effect. Specifically as it relates to this passage, God has placed fellow believers in our lives that we are called to build up. You may find them incapable of growing from their immaturity, and you may even question their adoption in Christ. But we cannot forget that all things are possible through God, and if He wills it, through us God may choose to accomplish what we hope to see in our lives. Be faithful to your calling in Christ; worship the Lord.