The church: A gift to help us fight self-absorption
One reason we as Christians need a church is to help deliver us from our self-absorption.
In this regard, one New Testament text has been increasingly meaningful to me in recent decades. In fact, it is a vital part of the daily offering of myself to the Lord Jesus.
Philippians 2:1-11 is an appeal from the apostle Paul to followers of Jesus to humble themselves and serve one another. He presents Christ as the supreme example, pointing to God the Son's humbling of himself in taking on flesh and going to the cross before the Father exalted Him.
In verses three and four, Paul writes, "Do nothing from selfish ambition 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."
Each day, I tell God in prayer I count others more important than myself, and I pledge to look out for their interests and not just my own. Sadly, I fail to do it at times with my wife and others -- likely some of you who are reading this post. Yet, I know this type of humility and valuing of others is required in following Jesus. And if I would become more like Him, this kind of selflessness is necessary.
The challenge comes not so much in committing through prayer to live this way but in actually practicing this kind of servanthood in relationship to others. And that's where the church comes in.
It's much like the "Peanuts" cartoon strip in which Lucy tells Linus he could never be a doctor because he doesn't love mankind. Linus shouts back, "I love mankind . . . it's people I can't stand!!"
The church gives us as Christians the opportunity to move beyond prayers and thoughts to demonstrate with our decisions and actions that we love our forever brothers and sisters, count them more important than ourselves and are looking out for their interests, not just our own. That's not always easy because even as sinners undeservedly rescued by our selfless Savior we struggle with pride and self-centeredness.
For instance, when a church member we have covenanted with has a need, does his or her interest prompt us to action? When we are in covenant with people who differ from us markedly, do we show we are sensitive to and want to understand their interests? When we say or post something provocative, do we consider the interest of a fellow church member who might be offended by what is said? When we gather for corporate worship, do we consider the importance of fellow worshipers and how we can serve their interests?
The church is vital in helping us grow closer to the humility and selflessness our suffering Savior demonstrated. Without the church, we reject a means God has given to help us grow in Christlikeness.
-- Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash