“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” —Philippians 2:3-4
At Redeemer, we often talk about our belief that following Jesus is a better way to live. Following Jesus is more than following a set of rules or living by a set of principles. Jesus is alive, right now, so to follow him is a relationship with a living person.
But that doesn’t mean that words and principles don’t matter. As with all healthy and thriving relationships, following Jesus wholeheartedly means living a certain way. It’s this way of living that we believe is better than any non-Jesus way of life.
In Paul’s letters to Christian believers in Philippi, he laid out what this life looks like. Paul said that followers of Jesus are to have the same mindset that Jesus had when he gave his divine life for our sake. In one of the Daily Text verses for today, Paul laid out one way to think about this. To live the Jesus way means to act as if other people are more important to you than you are to yourself.
Paul did not mean that people are not all equal in value in God’s eyes. It’s clear that we are. But what he said is that, paradoxically, the way to a good life lies not in trying to thrive as an individual but rather in concerning yourself with the well-being of other people. What Paul was talking about is the path of mutual submission. The way life works best is when I put your good ahead of my own and you put my good ahead of your own.
The mutuality is critical. I can only really live freely and generously, paying attention to other people’s good while ignoring my own, if I know that other people are looking out for me. The breakdown of this arrangement is usually what we’re talking about when we talk about “sin.” And the fulfillment and realization of this arrangement is what we’re talking about when we talk about “heaven.” This is how God designed human life to be.
This is such a world-changing concept. Can you imagine if we actually did this? Can you imagine voting without giving a second thought to your own interests but instead concerning yourself only with the welfare of others? Can you imagine budgeting based on an others-first principle? Can you picture what your calendar would look like if we could really live like this?
The Jesus way in this broken world is to keep taking steps toward this reality. Sometimes there will be a breakdown. Sometimes we’ll get self-centered. Sometimes we’ll be taken advantage of because no one was watching our backs. Sometimes we’ll be tempted to give up because this whole system just seems hopelessly naive.
But other ways of living don’t work. This way, this way of the beloved community, of the kingdom of heaven, this Jesus way, works.