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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 2, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Philippians 2:1–13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 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.

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; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (NRSV)

“Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”

That’s a radical thing to say. And it’s really hard.

There are those who would dismiss this verse as promoting weakness, perhaps even capable of doing psychological damage. It is important to see it in the context of all of scripture and all that we know about healthy self-giving versus pathological submissiveness.

But even when we do that, it is still radical, and it is still hard. How can we even begin to do something that is so counter to what our culture and country tell us is good, counter to our nature as individual human beings?

The doing has (at least) four components. First, reflection. So often we put ourselves first because it is second nature. We don’t mean to be selfish (we’re in a hurry, or we know a better way to do something, or we’re really tired, or, or, or . . .), but it ends up happening. We need to learn to take a moment and consider what is going on, to examine our kneejerk response. It also takes discernment. What is in the best interest of the other? Not what I judge to be in his or her best interest (and might serve my needs as well!) but, truly, what is good for her or him. Further, it takes discipline. Choosing for the other doesn’t come naturally, but with practice, we can get better at it. And, finally, it takes grace. We can’t always muster the will to do it on our own. To be as other-centered as this verse calls us to be, praying for grace and strength seems crucial.

Why go through all this? Because Jesus did. And we are Christians.

Jesus, we bend our knees and confess that you are Lord to the glory of God the Father. Unite us with you in your capacity to love beyond self-interest. We can’t do it alone. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance
Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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