July 22, 2014.
I’ve been thinking about a certain topic for a while now and I have heard some lessons recently on sacrifice, humility and how Christians should act with the people around them, so I have decided to suggest some practical ways of thinking and looking at situations that might help you and I actually achieve the lifestyle that Christ wants us to lead. I believe part of the problem we have with being self sacrificial is the society we live in. We are often taught that there are things that we deserve and have a right to and no one should ever say anything about that to take them away from us. We live in a “look out for number one” society. Whereas I do understand why this ideology would come about in a fallen would of pain and hurt, I do not think that is the ideology that we are called to have. In fact, we are called to have the opposite attitude, and that is how the world will see that we are followers of Christ, by our love. Much of this is talked about in a passage that our campus minister preached about last Sunday night:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
There are five practical ways of looking at situations that I believe can change our mindset into what Christ would have us have. If you have more, please feel free to share. I believe thinking of practical ways of carrying out Christianity is just as important as knowing the truth.
1. Humility is key.
This is probably one of the hardest things for an American. I know that’s a gross overstatement as there are many humble people that I know personally, but I think they are in the minority. Humility is simply not taught like pride is taught. We are taught to be proud of our work, proud of our family, proud to be an American. We are taught we live in the greatest nations on earth. We are taught that we should get recognized for everything that we do, regardless of whether or not we succeeded. Perhaps most damaging, we are taught that the definition of success is climbing over everyone else to reach the top. Do we ever glorify humility?
That’s what’s different about the Way. Christ, God on earth, came and washed his disciple’s feet. He taught them about humility throughout his ministry. I was talking with one of my friends the other day who I do believe shows a great example of humility, and he said that you always have to remember to step back and think “I am less,” or something to that effect. That sounds so wrong. I am less? No! I’m doing all these great things. Look, I’m even trying to be humb… Oh.
This is what Paul is laying out before the Philipians- the concept of putting others above yourself. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” That’s hard to do. But it is a mindset that we must master in order to adequately portray the love of Christ.
The thing is, if we all practiced this kind of humility, we wouldn’t even notice our own wants or desires, because they would be taken care of by a fellow brother or sister who puts us above themselves. See how that works? Granted, that is in a utopian society, but I think it is the goal for which we should strive. “I am less.”
2. “He/she doesn’t do the same for me” is already wrong.
Almost all our relationships are at least in part based off reciprocation. I am your friend because you are my friend. I do things for you because you do things for me. Have you ever heard the phrase “I’ll call in a favor”? That’s the concept of reciprocal relationships. But is that the kind of relationship we should have? Sometimes I think I may use the following passage too often, but it teaches so much truth:
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!”
(1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
Why not rather be wronged for the sake of your brother? That is love. If you are in a situation where you are saying “I do so much for them but they do so little for me,” then you have already passed the line of selflessness. To be truly selfless does not rely on anything anyone else does. Let me say that again. To be truly selfless, it doe not make any difference what someone else says or does. It is completely contained within the self. As soon as you make this complaint, you are saying that you are only sacrificial because you expect someone else to be sacrificial as well.
This is such a hard concept, especially for me. I’m very good at letting things go, so long as the other person acknowledges the problem and apologizes or changes or talks with me about. Something, and I can easily let it go. But if no effort (or negative effort) is made by the other party, I can’t stand it. It is very hard for me to let that go. But I realize that this too is not a sacrificial lifestyle. This too is pride. Pride through humility. Imagine that.
3. Sacrifice in necessary, but it doesn’t necessitate failure.
I think one of the best ways to change our perspective on being humble and living a sacrificial lifestyle is to reevaluate what sacrifice means. When you sacrifice something for someone else, it doesn’t mean you have lost a battle. It doesn’t mean that you are any less worthy or that what you sacrificed was any less important. It means that you view it as less important so that you can do something for someone else. I’m not sure that point made sense on paper, but in my mind it does. Maybe an example will help.
Say you are starting to cook dinner. You’ve gotten all the utensils and food out to start preparing and a friend walks in the kitchen and asks you if you can take them to the store. By taking them to the store, you are being sacrificial because you momentarily stopped what you were doing and did what they needed you to do. But that doesn’t mean that you cooking food is not important. It just means you put their needs above your own.
Maybe that didn’t clear it up either. If not, I will simply state the verse that I am pulling this concept from.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The point I was trying to make is that when we are truly sacrificial and lead a humble lifestyle, people aren’t going to view us as lesser people. Well, some might, but the majority will not. In fact, and almost ironically, we would likely be viewed in a much more positive light than those who are not sacrificial. Think about who we call real heroes: Firefighters who run into burning buildings to save people, Policemen who lay their life on the line to protect the public, people like Mother Theresa who’s mission in life is nothing but to help others. Paul is absolutely right about heaping coals of fire on an enemy’s head when you are nice to them in return for their evil. And people will take notice.
4. Forgive, and forget.
I’ll try to keep this point short because I have recently posted about this (read here) concept, but I do think it is important to living a humble lifestyle. One of the biggest problems we have when we are trying not to put ourselves above others is when that other person has done something you consider wrong to you. “I am less than him?! No way! I am so much better. Do you know what he did to me?” How are we going to be humble towards someone when we take this attitude?
I don’t think there is an easy fix to this one. We just need to learn to forgive like Jesus forgives. We need to learn to see things the way God sees things.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Four hundred and ninety times a day are we to forgive our brother. Notice what Jesus did not say: “Forgive your brother 490 times a day as long as it is a separate offense” or “Forgive your brother as long as he seems sincere.” There was no stipulation used. Jesus just said forgive your brother. Period. End of sentence.
“Yeah, I forgive, but I never forget.” Really? Why? Do you honestly think that is what God had in mind? Let me ask a more pointed question. Do you really want God to forgive that way? It is very comforting to me to see that God does not forgive the same way we do. If he did, we would all be in trouble. I think this attitude, though I understand why people take it, is the opposite of humility. It is in essence forgetting all the sin we have in our lives, all the times that we have made mistakes, all the times that we have not handled situations in the correct manner, and saying “I will never forget what you did because I would never do something like that.” That is an arrogant stance. And I don’t that someone with this attitude would consciously think that way, but I do believe pride to be an underlying player in this attitude.
But God is not man. Time and again, the children of Israel would leave him for other gods. Over and over they would roll in sin. But time and again, God would take them back when they repented. Even before they repented, God would cry out to them through the prophets “You have done all these horrific things, judgment is coming! Unless you just come back to me! Just come back and I will take you! I will forgive you! I will heal you!” Of course that is a paraphrase, but read the record and see where it comes from (Hosea is a good book to see this in).
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israelafter those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighborand each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Isn’t that wonderful? We all sin. We all fall short. But the blood of Christ wipes clean our record, and our iniquity is remembered no more. Are we not to have the mind of Christ?
5. Remember that we are just a small part of a greater purpose.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Perhaps this is the key point in humility and servitude. We need to do our best to remember that we are part of a larger whole. These specific situations that we get in little squabbles over truly won’t matter in the long run. We are striving for unity. In the words of Jesus, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand (Mark 3:24).” If we are to spread the gospel to the world, we are going to have to clean house first. If we loose unity, we loose everything. Our relationships, our mission, our goals in life. Division is selfish. Unity is achieved through giving up of self.
Somehow, we are going to have to learn how to see people as souls. That person who cut you off this morning on your way to work. He is a soul. Your coworker who said a mean comment to you. She is a soul. Your brother who neglects to ask how you are doing or if he can help you with a difficult task you are doing. He is a soul. This should put things in perspective.
The thing about humility, I suppose, is that it is truth. We are not as high and mighty as we think we should be considered. We are but part of a grand purpose, God’s purpose, to be reconciled to him, cleansed by the blood. There is a very humbling parable that Jesus tells in the book of Luke:
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
We have to have a firm understanding of who we really are in relation to God. The only reason we exist is because of him, and the only reason we are not doomed to hell is because of his grace. Maybe remembering this will help us not think more highly of ourselves. We are worthy only because Christ died for us, and we were cleansed by his blood, being buried with him in baptism and raised to a new life with a grand purpose. Let us live up to this purpose by humbling ourselves before our fellow man. I hope these few points help.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 18, Romans 12, I Corinthians 6, Philippians 2.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.