Regard Others . . .
June 14, 2020
Rev. Deborah Dail
Denbigh United Presbyterian Church
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.
What’s our attitude toward others these days? What’s our attitude today?
I used to say to my kids sometimes: “You’re going to have to check that attitude at the door and leave it outside.” They, of course, could say the same to me at times, and they have. Sometimes I would say, “I think you need an attitude adjustment.” Again, the same is often true of me.
Verse 5 in our passage from Philippians says in some translations: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . . (New American Standard Bible) Another translation says: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . .” (New Revised Standard Version) Still another says: “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.” (The Message)
Paul, the writer of Philippians, has already introduced the subject of attitude by saying: “Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message)
Well, that’s certainly counter-intuitive. That’s certainly counter-cultural. What happened to “Look out for #1”? Well, Jesus happened and he’s been hoping people would catch on ever since.
Paul always grounds his directions to his first readers and us in who Jesus is and how Jesus treats us; how Jesus, lived, thought, spoke, and behaved toward all people.
He lays it out this way. Jesus was and is God – fully divine. But, for the sake of others – for the sake of us and all humanity – Jesus laid aside some of the rights and privileges of being God, took on a human body, took on suffering, became a slave for others. He humbled himself. He emptied himself. He was an innocent man who suffered an excruciating, shameful death, even death on a cross. And he did all this voluntarily. He gave up privilege to serve and to save you and me, all of humanity – past, present, and future.
I think about the privileges I have and the degree to which I would be willing to give it all up or even some of it up – even for a time — for the sake of others. Would I voluntarily give up my secure middle-class life? Would I give up the privileges associated with who I am for others or at least use those privileges for good? Would I give up – even for a time – the power, privilege, and the rights I have, for the wellbeing of others?
When I was in college, I did an Urban Service internship among those who were poor and underserved. In the mornings we worked on a Habitat House. I quickly learned how unskilled I was at roofing, painting, and other construction projects but learned a lot in the process. In the afternoons, we would serve in various helping agencies. There was no time to change clothes between working on the house and going to the agencies. Some days I taught English as a Second Language to refugees; other days we went to a community day care center where I learned to break dance. One day, I was assigned to work at an agency which provided needed utility bill assistance for people.
When I arrived, the door to the agency was locked and the line was already long. So, I stood among those waiting to get in and talked with several people. But then I realized that they thought I was “one of them” – yes, “one of them.” I became uncomfortable. When the door opened, I stood up straight and marched to the door to announce, much louder than I realized, that I was an intern from Queens College. I wasn’t “one of them.” I wanted to help them, but I didn’t really want to give up my “reputation” as a college student whose scholarship and parents paid all her bills. Upon reflection I knew I had missed the point that day. I realized I still wanted to be supreme, superior, other than. I wasn’t willing to lay down my rights and privileges, my reputation, my pride in a true way that day.
But Jesus did this and more. And he is our example as we consider how we will regard others, as we reflect upon our attitudes toward others. Jesus was and is supreme – he was and is God. Yet, he didn’t treat people like he was supreme . . . better than. So, how do we humans get ideas about supremacy – that one group, race, gender, or individual is better than another? Paul says in Philippians: “in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
It’s especially difficult to do this when we are frightened, stressed out, easily offended, anxious, and depressed. A global pandemic has brought all these emotions to bear. The natural reaction is to draw inward. The natural reaction is to look for scapegoats. The natural reaction is to function from an attitude of “selfish ambition or conceit and to look to our own interests more than we look to the interests of others.”
We have also seen others and ourselves behave differently from this “natural reaction.” We have celebrated generosity and an outward look toward helping others both in the pandemic and during this time of division and pain in our world. We have witnessed so many people, and you among them, fighting the natural reactions and giving ever-more freely of yourselves to help others, to speak up for others, to sacrifice for others. You have made sacrifices. You have not just looked to your own interests, but you have looked to the interests of others. You have been compassionate and loving. To use Paul’s words, you “are shining like stars in the world.” You are living as those who have the attitude of Christ. I rejoice in what God is doing in and through you as you shine brightly.
So, our challenge is to continue shining and to find more ways to shine. Our challenge is to always remember Christ, his voluntary laying aside of some of the rights and privileges of being God for our sake and the sake of the world he loved. Our challenge is to always remember how Jesus regarded others and then to follow his attitude and example. May we humble ourselves and regard others with utmost love, respect, and kindness. “Let us do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than ourselves.”