Self(ish) Preservation

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 NRS).

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Yesterday I turned on the television and was immediately distracted by my son asking me to zip up his jacket.  As I assisted him, I heard something disturbing:

“You cannot care for eleven other people, but you can care for three.”

My head jerked around and I had to rewind to see what the context was for that declaration.  It was a woman on a reality based competition show where twelve contestants compete over the course of the season for a top prize.  The contestants are apparently living in small apartments in groups of four when the show begins.  This woman was speaking to her roommates.  What made me cringe all the more was that this woman was a self declared mother figure with her own child.  I renew my cringing.

Unfortunately for this world, she isn’t the only one who thinks like that.  Yet Christians are explicitly called NOT to think like that.  The Apostle Paul was very clear in his letter to the Philippians about putting our own interests aside and looking to the good of others.  This was modeled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ himself.  We are expected to follow Christ’s example.  He acted with grace and love towards those shunned by society.  He gathered and ate with infamous sinners, like tax collectors and prostitutes.  All of this because Christ knew that people had to see goodness for themselves in order to want to be that way.  Even now, with all of our “progress” and technological advances, we need to see it with our own eyes to be convinced.  Christianity embodied and in action boggles the minds of those in this world.  I know so many people who do not understand why we do what we do, or how we manage to do it.  I tell them that it’s not about us; it’s about God and doing what Christ calls us to do. 

When you took on the name of Christian and put on the mantle of Jesus Christ, you lost the right to be selfish.  Your new call is to be selfless.  Whether you display this rejection of selfishness and self interest through mission or ministry, you are part of those in Christ’s culture who choose a new way of being.  We choose to care for others, to love them and be in relationship with them, because God first chose us, even when we were not worthy of being chosen.  Each day should not be filled with what I want or what I want to do, but with God’s will and what others need to become disciples of the same Christ who called us.  We serve because we were served.  We love because we are loved.  There is no greater statement about the sins of society and the redemption of Jesus Christ than to love those society calls us to hate.  After all, society once called for others to hate Christ.

God of Grace,
You have always extended your love to us.
In Christ, you call us to extend grace to others;
To love them, to care for them,
And to help them find a deeper relationship with you.
This is no easy endeavor, no small task.
When our society and culture scream out,
Against such radical love and devotion.
Guide us by your Holy Spirit.
Grant us strength and encouragement.
We know all too well that we cannot go on in our own selfish ways.
We need you.
We all need you.
Lead your lost lambs back, O God.
Gather us all together in your abounding love.
Let us put aside selfish things,
And spread the light of Christ to everyone.


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