As I’ve connected with people over the past two months, I’ve asked how they’re doing and feeling. Recently, an emerging common response has been something like, “I am so over this self-isolating.”
I get it. I feel it too. I’d love to gather without 6-feet social distancing and shake hands or give a hug without concern for spreading a virus. I’d love to walk into a store with my 4-year-old daughter and leisurely browse-shop together. I’d love a more routine schedule that doesn’t include the stress of quick pivots when directed health mandates are announced. I’d love to experience those simple joys again for myself.
Yet I recall that Paul charged, “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” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Note the totality of this charge: “Do nothing.” No caveats, no gray areas, no exceptions. Selfish ambition and conceit both have self-interest at their core. So Paul is unequivocally stating, “Do nothing out of self-centeredness.”
Instead we’re called, “in humility (to) count others more significant than (ourselves).” Do we genuinely consider others more significant than ourselves?
Possibly — for those who agree with us. We allow them the benefit of the doubt because we understand their thinking and they confirm our thinking.
But what about people who are not like us? Who don’t agree with us, for example, on the speed with which the country should open. How do we consider them?
That’s where Paul really challenges Christians. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Others aren’t only people who share my ideological bent, world-
view or thinking patterns. Others are anyone who is not me.
Being called to look to the interests of all others is a heavily nuanced, complex undertaking we will spend a lifetime trying to put into practice. But what might it look like in this time of COVID-19 to consider others more significant than ourselves?
One decision we can make, right now, is to resolve to offer much grace to those who think differently than us. It’s exceedingly natural to mock and disparage those with whom we disagree, but surely this is the antithesis of humility and considering others ahead of ourselves.
A second step we can take is to behave as if we are each asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus. Does this seem ridiculous? Unpleasant at least? Adopting this mindset would surely limit our personal freedoms. Why get that radical in my thinking? Because our self-limiting may well protect others and it puts their needs ahead of our own desires.
To an infinitely greater degree, Jesus restricted Himself to put our needs ahead of His own. He “emptied himself” — not of His divine nature, but of so many God-abilities, in order to become fully human (while staying fully God). He limited Himself for our sake. Through His limitation and poverty, we became spiritually rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
As Christ-followers, how can we do any less than restrict ourselves for the sake of others? To count them more significant than ourselves?
That’s precisely what Jesus did for us. May we follow his lead through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as we seek to live well in these days.
Pastor John Stone
North Platte Berean Church