The presidential election is coming and as a nation we are anything but “like-minded” or “one in spirit and purpose.”
Those are Paul’s words in A.D. 61 to the people in Philippi, a prosperous Roman colony. (Philippians 2) Maybe somewhat like our prosperous United States? (Wait, could there be some time in history we’ve failed to learn from?)
While I won’t get into any political opinions here, I will share how I think this applies to my life and perhaps the lives of others who are willing to consider it.
Paul says first of all that if we want to be unified, we must…
Do NOTHING out of selfish ambition.
Great. Wow. Nothing? I’m not selfish. Am I? (What does that even mean?)
Here’s my take:
When I have my own agenda, or “vain conceit” as Paul puts it, I’m focused on my way being the best or only way to think or accomplish something. Paul says this is meaningless.
I’ll let that sink in.
Instead, he suggests we humbly consider the other person has an opinion or view that may be valid, or even…can I say this here? Right. Correct. With merit. He says we should not only consider their view, but give it preference.
Whoa. I’m sure both sides of the political camp are now thinking “NO WAY!”
Hear me out.
Paul isn’t suggesting that we ignore our opinions, thoughts, or even wisdom. What he is saying is to be willing to set mine aside in order to do the best thing for someone else in the moment.
He doesn’t say to abdicate our privilege to vote or to vote against our principles. But he does say that when we talk with someone, rather than pushing our point of view, humbly consider how we can uplift the other person instead of only thinking about ourselves.
Maybe that means choosing NOT to discuss our opinions. Perhaps it means listening to someone else without comment other than “thank you for sharing.” Sometimes hearing out another person may even mean a shift or broadening of our perspective. Could we both be right??
Paul tells us in verses 12-18 that this is something we need to work out. In other words,
It is HARD!
And we have to do it without arguing and complaining or the whole unity thing is defeated, right? We want to be an example of love and graciousness to all who interact with us. (Think FB posts)
When we choose to do this, we may feel like we’re sacrificing ourselves to the point of being poured out like a drink.
Liquefied. Down the drain. Ugh.
But the best news is that Jesus gave us an example to follow—and no one I know has yet humbled themselves unto death like he did—AND it is actually God who works in us to make us able to live this way. (vs.13)
A win, win for everyone.
Okay, here’s the coolest part. When we do humble ourselves, consider others’ interests and are willing to lay down our agenda, God will lift us up. Encourage us. Give us a place to be heard. Exalt is the word used in the Bible.
Say what? Wow, again.
I know it seems crazy. But God’s ways aren’t our ways. They seem counter intuitive. But they actually bring the most good if we can embrace them.
Finally, Paul says that another guy in the Bible, Timothy, is an example of this kind of living. Timothy had a genuine interest in the welfare of others. He lived like Jesus. Paul says we should joyfully welcome and honor people like him.
We might even become one.
Where can you lay down your agenda and consider the well-being of someone else instead?