Our reading for today comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the second chapter beginning with verse 4.
Let each of you look carefully not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Indeed, let this attitude be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Though he was by nature God, he did not consider equality with God as a prize to be displayed, but he emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant. When he was born in human likeness, and his appearance was like that of any other man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)
There’s a famous story about King Solomon. Two women came to him once when he was acting as a judge and one of them had their child who had died. One of the women had turned over on her baby one night. The child died because of that and she took the other woman’s child as if it was her own and swapped the babies. And this was now brought before the king, before Solomon. And he gave the very wise ruling to take this living child and divide it in two. And of course the true mother screamed and yelled out. And what Solomon was doing in that famous story was to play off the selfishness of the one woman and the selflessness of the true mother.
It’s interesting how our minds are bent on selfishness, being self-centered. St. Paul even has to write here to this Christian congregation, brand new believers in Christ in the early church, and remind them to look at others ahead of their own interests.
If you ever go to a daycare and just sit and watch the children playing. It’s amazing how much selfishness comes out in so many little activities. How often parents or people watching little children have to try to remind them to think about others first.
That same self centeredness is rooted down inside of each one of us. And it never leaves us our whole life. We get a little bit better at hiding it but it really never leaves us through our whole life. And that’s at the heart of so many problems in the world. Marital conflict. Trouble with siblings. Trouble with employers and employees. There are even wars that you could say have been fought because of selfishness.
So selfless love or thinking of other people first ahead of yourself is something we all admire. It’s something we all love to see and especially appreciate it when it’s shown to us. And yet it is very hard for us to practice.
Now Jesus epitomizes selflessness. The King of Heaven is nothing but pure love. And he comes down into this world. If someone were to come to teach us about selflessness he’d have to come outside of us and that’s what God has done through the work of his Son. Christ himself came into this world to teach us the true self sacrificing love of God. And this was his primary purpose. This was his primary charge in life and his mission: to take us back to how we would be before the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden.
A famous church father by the name of Cyril said this. “The Son of God joined our nature to himself so that he might restore it to its original beauty.” Imagine if we could see for just a moment what Jesus gave up in heaven so that you and I would someday get to live there. He was willing to come and take on a life of trouble and tears so we could live in a home where there would never be any tears. He’s given up his home for you so you could someday come and enjoy it. He’s given up his holiness and perfection in order for you and me to be dressed in that beautiful robe of holiness before God.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. So the God who loves us like this now desires to see the same attitude, the same mindset in us, the way we see it in our Lord Jesus Christ. He says Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. And so how we treat others, how we talk about others, how we think of them first is sort of like holding the cross of Christ in front of other people as a reflection of how God has been so kind hearted to treat us. Amen.