We’ve just emerged from the thick of Team Season here at Forward Edge, and it is always one of the most exciting and inspiring times of the year for us. We get to hear and see all the great stories and photos of what God is doing in the lives of those being served as well as those on our teams who go to serve.
Traveling to unfamiliar locations usually hits the ‘Reset’ button on our perspectives – we can see new and unusual things and people living lives sometimes very differently from our own. This often causes one of two reactions: we can become judgmental about others and their lifestyles, and more focused on our own; or, it open ours eyes to see the ways we can learn from others, appreciate our differences and even value what they value.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Phil. 2:1-4
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35
In the verses above, the Apostle Paul’s message is that we should value others over ourselves; and, the Apostle John says that we will be known as Christ followers by our love. So, how are we doing with that?
By nature, we are really good at taking care of #1, making sure that we have all we need and usually most of what we want. As Christians, we need to be recognizable by our behavior toward others, having a “You are more important than me” perspective in all areas – family, spouses, friends, co-workers, strangers. This doesn’t come naturally. The spirit can be willing but the flesh is weak, and we need to ask the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. If we truly lived this out, people would say that they feel valued when they are around us – that is the power of the Gospel.
Implicit in this mindset is the act of laying down our rights.
As Americans, we know very well what it is to have rights and to claim them. We fortunately live under a Bill of Rights and we are entitled to them. But if we start adopting the view point that ‘If someone or something gets in the way of my desires, my rights are being violated’, it can easily shape our world view and how we live out our faith. This mentality does not bring out the best in us. Would focusing on all the things that we feel are ‘owed to us’ versus living our lives looking like Jesus make us a better culture and community? Doing or expecting something just because we ‘have the right’ may make sense from an earthly, human perspective but not always from a heavenly, kingdom one.
Paul’s mission experience exemplifies this. When confronted with arrest in Jerusalem, he had the authority to exercise his rights of citizenship to be sent to Rome, but he only used it as a tool to give him more of an opportunity to evangelize. He didn’t hide behind his citizenship for his own purposes or use it as a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. He was eventually imprisoned and killed in Rome by his own countrymen, knowing in advance that this would be the eventual outcome.
Of course, Jesus is our supreme example. In the greatest demonstration of the laying down of rights, Phil. 2:6-8 tells us that though Jesus had every right to claim His divinity, He chose not to, but instead emptied Himself and took on the likeness of man. He did not consider equality with God to be used to His own advantage. Though He was God and had EVERY right, He put them all aside, even laying down His life for us.
This is the intrinsic nature of God. Jesus’s disposition is to make room for others. Being complete, He empties Himself and invites us in. When we give ourselves to serve others, we empty ourselves and invite others in.
Paul, in 2 Cor. 8:9, puts it this way, “I am not making a demand, but I am testing the sincerity of your love in comparison to the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” And we’re meant to pass that on to others.
So, how do we make the choice to give of ourselves? Our human view is if I give what I have, I will have less; but, God’s Kingdom doesn’t work that way – when we empty ourselves of what we have, He fills that void back up. The resurrection was the turning point for the disciples. They watched Jesus give His all and gain everything in exchange; it changed their view of themselves and the world. We can do the same.
Author James Cone says, “The only real question for Christians is whether their actions are in harmony with their knowledge of God”.
We should pray for God to reveal more of Himself to us, that we would know and trust Him more; and then to bring people and opportunities into our path that challenge our perspectives and our actions. If, moment by moment, in small and large ways, we could value others before ourselves, saying by our actions – or even in our words – “you are more important than me”, we could change our community, our country and even our world – and, in the process we will be changed.
Written By: TyAnn Hunt
TyAnn works as the Child Sponsorship Administrator for Forward Edge International.