Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8
I’ll be honest – this isn’t one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Why? Because it requires me to look beyond myself. Most of us, if we’re completely honest, are hard-wired to look out for ourselves. It’s not always natural to look out for the best interest of others. Why? Because that means we could be neglecting ourselves in the process. But, speaking out of the other side of my mouth, it’s one of my favorite passages, because it gives me such a clear glimpse of what Jesus was all about.
If we want to be people transformed by the power of the Gospel, which means to be transformed into the wholeness of Jesus, we have to pry our fingers off of our own control and start to look towards others.
The Scripture here teaches us to value others above ourselves. This echoes the words of Jesus when He said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as the ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28). Jesus, the King of Kings, who deserves all of our praise and adoration, didn’t demand it. He took on the very nature of a servant… Powerful words that reframe what relationships should look like. We should have a posture of being for the other, and this requires vulnerability.
I think we hesitate sometimes to truly be vulnerable in relationships because it means we could be hurt in the process. If I focus on putting the other person first, especially if I open up and share about my life and express a deep interest in theirs, it could mean that they might use that vulnerability, that others-first posture, to exploit me in some way. Self-sacrifice is becoming vulnerable and risking being hurt for the sake of others. That sounds scary. But I’m convinced that the only way we will experience the deepest joys and depth in a relationship is to open ourselves up to also being willing to experience the deepest pain. This is the nature of Gospel meeting humanity. After all, Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross.
The highest call in a relationship is to give of ourselves to the other, even if there is a cost. It’s in this way that we follow the pattern of Jesus. What if today, you made it your intention to put others you are in relationship first? What if, practically, you made it your goal to serve them in some way? Maybe its showing up with food or a killer dessert (I’ll send you my address if you need it!), or to share more of yourself with a trusted friend. It’s how we live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus – and you’ll both be glad you did.
By Larry Boatright