Yesterday we explored a little about being egocentric and how Christ changes our focus from "self-centered" to "other-centered" as he begins to become the object of our affection and attention. As we begin today, we will consider how this change in "center" really is manifest in our lives. Anytime we make a change in our position, we also change our focus. Try it - turn around right where you are right now and try to see the screen of your computer from that position. It is most difficult to see the screen with our head turned toward it, right? It is also most difficult for us to see ourselves as the center of attention when we turn our eyes toward the face of Jesus. Instead of beholding ourselves, we begin to behold the creator of all things. This simple realization of position determining our focus helps us make great strides as it comes to laying down the stuff which really only matters to us and taking up the stuff which begins to reach others, ministering to the depth of their needs.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: 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. (Philippians 2:1-4 MSG)
Our "list" starts with learning to be agreeable. I emphasize this as a teachable quality as not all of us are very skilled at being agreeable - especially when we have the focus on ourselves instead of the other person. When we make this shift in focus from self to others, we also are challenged with putting the "agendas" we hold behind us in respect for the needs of others. Really the focus here is living without discord - to not find the stuff you could "nit-pick" about the other guy or gal. This is probably one of the most difficult things for us since we almost always can find fault with the "other guy". Truth be told, they can find fault with us, too! Learning to get along with each other - to live above discord - is almost an art. It is possible, but it begins with the change in focus - moving from seeing self first to seeing the needs, opinions, and beliefs of others before you jump to conclusions as to what they intend and believe.
As much as being agreeable will go a long way to changing how it is we interact in our community of relationships, learning to be truly loving is something which escapes a great many. We have this warped idea of love having strings attached - of us doing things to get things. Don't get me wrong, because we come into this world demanding our own way - cry and you get fed, cry and your diaper is changed, cry and you get held. We kind of learn this "doing something gets us something" attitude. So, later in life when we come to Christ, it is kind of like "undoing" some bad habits. We need to keep in mind that our needs are met in Christ and no one meets them more perfectly than he does. They are not met by our doing, but by his. They are not met because we demand of him, but because he loved us enough to prepare for our every need. Learning to see love as given without strings is part and parcel with what God expects of his kids.
When we are challenged to be "deep-spirited friends", we might be a little curious how this actually happens. God isn't after us just flitting around from relationship to relationship, but rather "locking into" some relationships which matter and within which we can build a sense of accountability. Not only do we benefit from this, but each one involved in these deeper relationships benefits from the inter-connection, as well. Deep-spirited friends challenge others to grow, not because they wield some sense of power over them, but because iron sharpens iron. We benefit from having to work on tough issues together, being open and transparent with each other about struggles, and then holding each up when times are rough.
Two very important reminders are provided next which speak about genuineness within relationship and the view we have of others. Those who use "sweet talk" or flattery are insincere. Their aim is still themselves - they want to make themselves look good, or to endear themselves to someone without the genuine concern for the relationship. Those who push their way to the top are not concerned about those they walk over on their way up. Both traits are damaging to community relationship. These traits are common in those whose focus in internal, but when our focus turns toward the eyes of Jesus, we begin to see how damaging continuing in these practices can be. We begin to see others as Jesus sees them and he didn't walk on others, nor did he push his way to the top.
The long and short of the message is to take a look outside of yourself and consider the needs of others first. This doesn't mean we neglect the things which give us anchor in life - like personal time in the Word, prayer, etc. It does mean we don't consider our needs as more important than those of others and that we don't take advantage of others. Most importantly, it means we begin to take the focus off ourselves and see how we "fit" in the big picture of this community God has placed us within. Just sayin!