Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Lotta Give and a Little Take

     If I were to describe the worldly mindset, I would say that it focuses on what a person can take for themselves.  Whether rich or poor, there exists the idea that  life revolves around "me" and my wants.  This outlook produces the entitlement society and says, "I deserve to have my needs met.  It is my right.  I may not have worked for it, but it is my due.  This type of thinking has caused jealousy, class warfare,
thievery, hate, murder and all types of evil.
     By contrast, the Christian mindset reflects our concern for others rather than getting everything I can for myself.  People may think us fools for not demanding our rights or seeking after riches, but we have a higher calling in Jesus Christ to fulfill.
     In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of exhortation:  "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 rivalry 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" (Phil. 2:1-4).  Paul, here is appealing for unity in the Body of believers that they would be of one mind, loving one another as Christ loved them.  When we live like this, it is a powerful witness to a world headed in the other direction.  Likewise, Paul said it would fulfill his joy to see this harmony.  The true enemy of harmony and unity is selfish ambition or pride.
     Paul was not saying that we should put ourselves down or belittle our talents.  However, he is encouraging Christians to think of others and show them love rather than selfish ambition.  Rivalry divides churches, families and even communities.    Pride (which is a sin) is very competitive in nature and tries to get the best of others creating conflict instead of harmony.  In contrast, as Christians, we are called to humility which accepts a place of service and is concerned for the needs and welfare of others.
Before we can have this Christ centered humility, though, we must have the love of the Lord in our hearts for one another.  Jesus made it clear that we are to go the extra mile even with those who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:38-48 The Sermon on the Mount).  We are to love the unlovely...not just those who are in the world but also our brothers and sisters in Christ who are, at times, difficult to get along with.  However, we cannot do this in our own strength.
     Being filled with the Holy Spirit, praying for those we have difficulty with and reading God's Word each day provides for us the strength of heart to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  We are to bear with one another and seek ways to get along which brings glory to God.  Jesus said that if someone asks for your tunic, let him take your cloak as well.  Now, this brings us to some important questions.  Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills?  Who has allowed us to hold a job and make money?  It is God!  Therefore, since we are only using the things which God has given to us in this life, why do we become so possessive as though it belongs to us?  In my lifetime, I have witnessed the heartache that comes into families torn apart by fights over inheritance.  Isn't that silly?  We cannot take anything with us when we die.  Only what we sow into the treasure house of God by living in obedience to Him will stand the test of time.
     Division, fighting and lack of harmony come from wanting things our own way.  We are to be willing to share what we have and to consider others and their needs.  This is the way to harmonious living as Christians.  We are called to be different than the world.  If we want true joy, we will find it when we put on the heart of a servant as our Lord did.  As the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians:  "Only let your manner of life be 'worthy' of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...." (Phil. 1:27).  This, then, is how we are to live in harmony one with another for God's glory not our own.  Selah!

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