In studying the term “abundant living” for an upcoming sermon, I came across the idea that one aspect of abundant living is walking in Jesus’ steps. In a kind of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” chain of thinking, I then turned to looking at scriptures that definitively explain what it means to be like Jesus. (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a fabulous children’s book where a mouse gets a cookie, which means he needs a glass of milk, which means he has to use a chair to get a glass, which means….you get the idea.) In the plethora of cookie crumbs that I followed in that line of thinking, I came across this morsel of goodness from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:
Philippians 2 (The Message)
2 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—
Holy Cow. Did you catch that? “If you have a heart, if you care…” Paul lays it on straight and THICK.
— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Being Jesus means not being obsessed with getting your own advantage. Imagine how the world would work if everyone behaved that way!
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.
I’m terrible at math, but even I can see that equation: “Being like Christ” = “Being humble.”
He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Now let’s think about how this could apply to the way we treat people who look or think differently or will VOTE differently than us. Think about the person you MOST disagree with…maybe it’s your relative, a co-worker, a friend, or even your spouse. It might be someone with whom you have had many arguments or with whom you have exchanged NASTY posts on FaceBook.
You know who I’m referring to….the one who is the red to your blue or the liberal to your conservative. Now hold that person in your mind and listen again to what the scripture is telling you about how to treat him or her:
- Agree with each other.
- Love each other.
- Be deep-spirited friends with each other.
- Don’t push your way or your IDEAS in front of that person.
What should we do? Don’t try to talk your way to the top but let others go ahead of you. Step aside, FORGET YOURSELF, and lend a hand….even to that person you don’t like.
That is the secret to abundant living. When we empty ourselves of ourselves, it is then that we are most like Jesus.