See Jesus? Be Like Jesus

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)

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:

  1. Agree with each other.
  2. Love each other.
  3. Be deep-spirited friends with each other.
  4. 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.

Step Aside by Michelle Robertson

Moving Sidewalks

The instructions are clear. If you choose the moving sidewalk at the airport, you need to step carefully on and off. If you want to stand on the moving sidewalk, please stand on the right, so that others may pass you on the left. I think this is good counsel. After all, they are SIDEWALKS, not SIDESTANDS. So if you want to stand, at least stand to the side so that the walkers can actually MOVE on the MOVING sideWALK. The calm and soothing voice of the announcement that plays over and over is non-confrontational, polite, and instructive.

If this same announcement played in other parts of the country, it might sound different. I grew up in South Jersey, where I imagine it would sound a little more assertive. Think The Sopranos-assertive. If Tony Soprano recorded the announcement it could sound like, “YO! Youze are on the moving SIDEWALK. I SAID SIDEWALK, as in MOVE A-SIDE so that others can WALK. What bozo doesn’t know to move ovuh? WHADDYAZ think this is, the turnpike for cryin’ out loud?? Ah, fuhgeddaboutit.”

Traveling through the magnificent Atlanta airport recently, I encountered several opportunities to observe the moving sidewalks. They connect the ticketing lobbies, baggage claims, and all of the terminals, spanning miles. If I have time, I prefer to walk on the non-moving concourse, but the sidewalks are a good alternative if you have just enough time to use them, and you don’t have to default to the train. You just hope that you can move forward quickly and people won’t get in your way. ATL is huge, with multiple concourses. It processes about 300,000 people a day. A DAY. That’s a lot of moving sidewalk violations right there.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes about moving sidewalks. OK, he writes about metaphorical moving sidewalks:

Philippians 3 (The Message)

Focused on the Goal

13-14 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-18 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street.

Paul encourages us to keep moving forward with our eyes on the goal. He warns us that others, who are looking for the easy sidewalk, will block us and stand in our way. But we are to walk forward and NOT TURN BACK.

I know a woman who is struggling with two significant family relationships. She can’t move forward with the situation as it is, and so she has addressed it with them. They are a stumbling block to her, blocking her spirit, her joy, and her goal of pursuing a life that reflects her relationship with God. She has chosen sobriety, while they have chosen to take other paths. She has chosen honesty, while they have chosen avoidance. As she keeps her eye on the way forward, she has no choice but to not look back. If she were to do so, she would surely fall off the moving sidewalk.

Does this resonate with you? Is God calling you to a way forward that means you have to leave the past behind? Is God inviting you to pursue him at the cost of everything else? Do you need to shed toxic relationships in order to attain the goal of the abundant life offered by Christ?

Wherever your moving sidewalk is headed, step on with care. Keep your eyes always looking forward. Carefully make your way around others who try to block your progress. And no matter what, don’t look back.

Passing on the Left in Concourse B.