Hi, Rob here. I’ve been pondering lately this instruction of Paul’s in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Is this a command to become a doormat? What about all the talk of boundaries and self-awareness being needed in our lives? If we always put others first how do we get taken care of? Is living out this verse even possible????
The fact is that simply serving others without any boundaries or self-awareness does not work! It doesn’t work for you and eventually it doesn’t work for the people you serve. But is the answer to say ‘no’ more and have such strong boundaries that you become known more for being self-protective than self-sacrificial? The good news is that you value others more when you see yourself as valued. You serve others better when you see yourself as having something to offer. You value others above yourself when you are at peace with God, yourself and your life.
When asked what the greatest commandment in the law was Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew:22:37-39).'” Jesus himself said that he came to serve but he began his ministry with these words from the Father ringing in his ears: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).” It is from the basis of being unconditionally loved and fully accepted by God that we can embark on a life of humility, service and love. The goal is not so much to give ourselves away but to give ‘Christ in us’ away. We want to be so filled with the life of Christ that he overflows into the lives of the people we love and serve.
So, like Jesus, when we’re feeling drained, tired and ‘over it’ then the task is to seek God. Jesus would take lonely walks in the hills in the middle of the night to connect with his Father, be replenished by the Spirit and have his heart filled with divine love. We need to be reminded that we are the son/daughter whom he loves and that he is pleased with us, just as our children need to hear ‘I love you’ from our lips often. Jesus was often redirected after those intimate times. He would move towns, cross the lake, change emphasis and equip helpers. We are to walk with God in our service. It’s not about the service as much as it’s about the relationship. We are loved by a Father, rescued by our brother, follow our friend and love holds it all together. We put boundaries in place so that we can protect our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit, not to keep people out. We do what it takes to nurture that relationship just as Jesus did.
So pay attention to creeping resentment, hateful thoughts, bursts of anger, signs of depression and increasing restlessness. They are signs that you’ve crossed over from overflow to drought. They are signs that the Spirit of God needs to come and replenish you, renew you and refresh you. You may need to pull back for a while and let your heart be nourished without having to give too much out. They are signs that the relationship needs to be prioritised and love needs to take centre stage again.
‘Christ in us, come and fill us your love, your heart and your strength. We want to serve, we want to show the world your love and kindness but protect us Jesus. Protect us from turning service into religious duty. Protect us from serving in a way that serves our reputations. Put your love at the centre of our lives and may all we do make your love known to this hungry and thirsty world. Amen.’