The controversial billboard that went up recently in Chicago displayed provocative body shots and this text line – “Life is short. Get a divorce.” It was to draw business to a legal firm, and it worked! The appeal of the ad was to self-centeredness, to the idea that a person’s happiness trumps all other concerns and commitments in life. Should we be shocked? I don’t think so. Self-love is everywhere today, a basic part of this society. I see it even among Christians who should know better. Despite being loved by Christ and forgiven a huge debt of sin, I see this attitude on display often – “I did not get my way, so I am going to stir up trouble.”
Yes, I admit that I struggle with egotism, and most likely, so do you. Take a moment to evaluate.
What is your response to an individual who cuts in line at the supermarket? Are you quickly irritated?
How do you respond to that driver who goes too slow, or who makes you brake abruptly? Do you yell in anger?
These are the small things, but a lack of grace in them, reveals the state of our heart.
When you do not get the credit you think you deserve in your ministry in the church or,
when your spouse fails to remember some significant moment in your life, how do you respond? Do you sulk or intimidate with anger?
When a change is made in your church that invades your comfort zone are you gracious or do you start to line up allies to force the perceived offender to ‘do it my way?’
In his letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul appeals to them to be unified, to give up their self-centeredness, to surrender their rights. His address to them is direct. They thought they were mature. They though that because gifts of the Spirit were abundant in their gatherings, they were all grown up. The apostle says otherwise. ” Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, NLT) The sign of spiritual maturity is not speaking in tongues or exercising some other esoteric spiritual gift; it is living with loving concern for others and genuine unity!
In a subsequent chapter, Paul observes that the Corinthian Believers were so selfish, they were even suing each other in court. He tells them they are making a big mistake, then he hands us a challenge that only the mature can accept. “If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? . . . Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:4-5, 7, NLT)
Jesus reminds us that the way up is down, that the greatest among us is the one who is servant of all! Is that a popular message? Not at all. We are an upwardly mobile people. Many of us aspire to climbing to the top of the heap, thinking that when we have come to a place where people serve our needs, follow our agenda, march to our cadence – we have arrived! That is not the wisdom of God.
Prayerfully ponder this passage for a few moments. Let the truth penetrate.Then pray for grace to serve – with joy, as you give up your rights, without a moment’s thought for your own comfort.
“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11, The Message)
A life so lived will find this amazing commendation in Glory – “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter your Father’s rest.”