Not Only Yours...But the Interest of Others

Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:4


Dear Friends, Last week we finished the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians - although I apologize, because I didn’t quite make it super clear. Today, we’re going to look at verses 1-4 of Chapter 2, as I realize there’s a chance we may not complete this by the end of the year... which is ok, because this letter is just SO GOOD! This second chapter follows Paul's acknowledgement, as we looked at last week, that faithfully following Jesus is going to end up with some suffering. Not everyone is going to accept this Kingdom-of-God living, not everyone is going to receive the good news of God’s love and the evidence of that in Jesus’ death & resurrection as good news. And with that acknowledgment out of the way, Paul turns towards exactly how followers of Jesus should act. But he prefaces it quite interestingly… If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ… He goes right to the affects of following Jesus. If they have been encouraged, then he has instruction for them. If any fellowship with the Spirit… This gets to the unity that they have with God, the third-person of the Trinity that remains uniquely present with us today, leading, guiding, comforting and binding us together as a community. If any of comfort in his love… He continues, moving to the potential comfort they have felt by the love of Jesus Christ. If any tenderness and compassion… While it’s safe to understand this in light of the first two clauses, that they’re related to being united (connected, bound) to Jesus, or the affects of feeling his love, it’s also possible to see the “tenderness and compassion” as a marker of the change in their own hearts - maybe before they were more hard-hearted or angry, in general, or towards others, but now they feel a tenderness & compassion. Paul is basically asking the Philippians to look inside and ask themselves if they’re united to Christ, if they’ve committed to following him, and if that unity has made a demonstrable difference in their lives… then the following instructions are for them. And what are they? Well, first, Paul pulls on their relationship - “make my joy complete” - this is as much about “right” living as it is about the Philippians relationship with Paul. Their “right” living will fill Paul with joy, and so they should be… like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose Unity. Which is not uniformity. It’s not necessary for each Philippian church member to be a carbon-copy-cut-out of each other. It’s not necessary for them to dress alike, mimic each other’s speech patterns, find their employment in the same field, eat and drink the same things… no, their unity is about love and purpose. Their conduct towards each other (love) and the goals they are working towards (purpose) are to be the same. Doubling down, Paul explains what then are not to be their markers: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves… What a statement! What an instruction! What a picture of how we are to act as the church… and if this does NOT describe the church today, if this does not describe OUR church today, if this does not describe our CONDUCT today… then we must accept that we are not faithfully following Paul or ultimately God’s instruction. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others. If any word hits home in these four verses, it should be this one. When I officiate a wedding, I always explain to couples that their marriage covenant “is not about rights and responsibilities” - and the same could be said for us. As followers of Jesus, it’s not about what our rights are, nor about what other people’s responsibilities are to us. We gave up our “rights” when we came under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christ is our master. We have no other allegiance, and we can make no claims of “benefits” by any other status. Instead of looking at what we are owed, how others should do right by us, we are to look to do right for them and their benefit. That is our call, if we’ve found encouragement… comfort… fellowship… tenderness and compassion. And next week, we’ll take a deep dive into exactly what this looks like, as we look at one of the oldest and most beautiful Christian hymns ever written. Welcoming You to Grow in Jesus, Pastor Don

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