What does it mean to live as Christ in how we serve one another?
At the beginning of chapter 2 in the letter, Paul tells the Philippian believers, and us, to be likeminded, united in love for each other, and one in purpose because we are already one in the Spirit. In other words, Paul is telling them “You have been united so stay that way.”
All believers are united into the Body of Christ. We call it the Church with a capital C to represent everyone who has trusted in Christ since the day of Pentecost around 33 AD. The Church as the Body of Christ is not an organization but something living. It transcends all cultures, languages, national boundaries and time periods. Knowing we are part of this unity gives us radically different reasons for behaving well in our relationships with one another. What each of us does can affect positively or negatively the other members of this organism, the universal Body of Christ represented to us in our local church body. We are to preserve and encourage that fellowship among all believers produced by the Spirit who is indwelling each of us.
It’s so easy to approach a local church as we do any other organization or business—as a consumer. We shop around for the best church with the most to offer our children and ourselves. We come to our classes, expect childcare for our children, enjoy the fun, sometimes leave a little money, and then go on to the next shopping or activity. Consumer Mentality. Not good. The Church is a living organism, not a store. God designed the Church to depend on the individual members serving one another.
But this calls for a radical lifestyle, opposite the “it’s all about me” our western culture teaches. Usually our response to someone else pushing us out of our comfort zone is this, “Don’t step on my rights to pursue my pleasure.”
We can ask ourselves several questions to make us think about our attitudes toward ourselves and toward others in light of Christ’s example. Going back to Philippians chapter 2 verses 3 and 4:
“In what ways do you as a woman struggle with selfish ambition or vain conceit?”
“How do you regard others as more important than yourself?”
“How do you voluntarily set aside your rights, status, conveniences, and preferences so that you can serve others like Jesus did?”
Those are tough questions. But, answering them will lead us to live as Christ in how we serve one another. The good news is that we can have this serving attitude because God is doing the work in us. We are not conjuring it up on our own but are partners with Him to get it done. We can look to Jesus’ example to get ideas.
Choice #1. We should think of others before ourselves.
Philippians chapter 2 verses 3 and 4 say that we need to consider others as worthy of preferential treatment. The scripture doesn’t say we are not to look out for our own interests, but only that we should have equal or greater concern for the interests of others. To be a servant involves taking care of ourselves so that we can give more effectively in serving others. That involves getting rest, food, exercise, recreation, and an occasional retreat. Those things benefit us.
Jesus had privileges as God, but He did not consider His equality with God as something to hold onto selfishly. He thought of us and our needs. He did this so we didn’t have to continue living selfish lives. He has enabled us to be others-oriented. All those things listed in Philippians chapter 2 verse 1 are ours. Being united with Christ. Having comfort from His love, tenderness, and compassion. We have been cared for very richly so that we don’t need to be thinking about ourselves all the time. Those who live as Christ think of others before themselves.
Choice #2. We should serve out of love and worship for God.
Romans chapter 12 verse 1 tells us to take our everyday, ordinary life—sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life—and place it before God as an offering. This is our spiritual act of worship. The Greek word used there refers to the ones who served in the Temple, dedicated to His service. They were both serving God and worshiping God at the same time. Our service is to be an extension of the worship we render to God.
God doesn’t dwell in buildings anymore. He dwells in people. So, there is no sacred/secular division in any Christian woman’s life. What you do at church is no more sacred service than what you do at home, school, or work. Everything you do is service to God within His temple, which is your body. If we confess Jesus as Lord, then serving others will develop as a very natural way of life. For example, if you live in a family, routine jobs around the house are no longer boring chores but instead are opportunities to serve one another in love. I used that with my kids. One of my daughter’s friends heard me say that and told her mom that she would do her chores as serving her family in love. The mom loved that change in attitude!
Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message translation, said that
“A servant Christian is the freest person on earth!” (Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 68)
Why is that? You are free because you are serving willingly. Like Jesus did. It is living as Christ.
What counts as service? Every area of life in your family and in your church. In your daily life, you can encourage others to have Paul’s perspective on life that was “to live is Christ” which leads to live as Christ. Do you realize that part of that includes allowing others to serve you? Let them have the joy.
Remember that the focus of serving should be love for Jesus and a heart of worship. The focus is not to earn favor with God or with people. In John chapter 12 is the beautiful account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus with the most precious item she owned—a jar of expensive perfume. Her act of service was motivated by her love for Jesus. It serves as an example to us of how to serve Jesus with our hearts. We can’t serve Him physically, but we can serve Him through serving His body, the Church.
Those who live as Christ serve out of love and worship for God.
Choice #3. We should willingly sacrifice as we serve.
Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. His body, His reputation, His time, and His glory.
Serving others usually costs something. Time, money, mental energy, physical work.
I read somewhere that humans are more likely to buy into an idea that costs something. When communism began to spread in the 1900s, communist leaders would recruit followers by asking someone to boldly undertake something that would cost them. The willingness to sacrifice was one of the most important factors in their success. It’s what attracted and held youths in the movement as well as extremists who advocated their cause through killing innocent people. We’ve seen that in fanatical religious groups as well. How much greater and more beneficial is the true cause of Christ! Wise Christian leaders know that sacrifice is necessary if there is going to be true growth and ministry. Service can’t always be easy.
Let me clarify the difference between sacrifice and suffering. Suffering is usually imposed on you by someone else. Sacrifice is something you are willing to give through time, money, skills, and physical labor. The humble mind doesn’t talk about how much you sacrifice but how much you receive back from the Lord. And, you don’t whine.
After talking about staying unified and loving one another, then giving Jesus as the perfect example of how to do that, Paul goes for the jugular by saying that grumbling and arguing can cleave unity as much as the San Andreas Fault is splitting California.
Grumbling springs from an inner dissatisfaction or discontentment. It is expressed in muttering, whining, & griping.
Arguing springs from an arrogant and ungrateful attitude. It starts out as grumbling then leads to outright disputes.
You know very well that we women have a strong tendency to mutter, grumble, whine, and gripe. And our relationships often feel the brunt of our “discontented” and “ungrateful” attitudes.
I live in a nation of complainers. Everywhere we turn we hear complaints. But, whining has no place in willing sacrifice. Joyful servants don’t whine. Doing a job and then griping about it is not service. There is a difference between complaining and seeing a problem and working toward a solution. Even then, watch out for grumbling when others don’t see your way.
In the rest of Philippians chapter 2, Paul contrasted those attitudes with the shining examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus with whom he had such blessed relationships. No grumbling. No petty jealousies. Quality relationships. Paul and Timothy were like a father and son. Paul and Epaphroditus were like brothers to each other.
I couldn’t help but think about our relationships as women—mother/daughter, sister/sister. We are all daughters, most of us are mothers, and we are all sisters—either by family or through Christ. And many of us are blessed with the privilege of rearing daughters. How are we doing at not raising whiners?
Jane Austen was a nineteenth century author who wrote novels that were humorous commentaries on the social behaviors of her time. In her book Persuasion, she draws a stark contrast between whiners and true servants in the form of three sisters. The older sister Elizabeth is haughty and doesn’t even try to serve anyone else but herself. The younger sister Mary complains continually about how she takes care of everyone else but receives no respect from anyone. Actually, she complains continually and spends more time trying to draw attention to herself than she does in serving anyone. The middle sister Anne is the true servant, cheerfully caring for others, not drawing attention to herself. The only one experiencing joy is the one who is spending less time thinking about herself and her own needs.
Those who live as Christ willingly sacrifice as they serve others.
Choice #4. We should glorify God more than ourselves as we serve one another.
Jesus glorified God. In Romans chapter 15 verses 1-7, we find a parallel passage to today’s lesson. In it, Paul exhorts believers to be patient with one another, try to please one another, accept one another, and seek unity with one another so that—and here’s the goal—
“with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:7)
We are living, breathing, walking, talking representatives of the living God. We are living letters to the world around us. We are telling the truth about who God is by the way we live as well as by what we say. To live is Christ means to live as Christ means to let Christ live His life through us. The world sees Him through us. And, that glorifies God.
Serving one another is not the main goal, letting Christ live His life through us as we serve is the main goal. Serving one another is the means. Jesus is our source of joy. Therefore, we can be joyful servants for Him. Serving Jesus is from the heart, not a task. Joyful servants willingly sacrifice and don’t whine about it. Ask yourself: How am I serving Jesus? Try some things out to see what’s a good fit. True Christian service is fun for you. And, it gives glory to Him.
Want to have joy in your life?
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the fullness of His joy. Then, live in that joy!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 5 of Satisfied.