By Pastor Daryl Largis
The Church, or as it is described in Scripture as “the body of Christ,” is like no other expression that has ever existed. It gets its purpose and being from Christ himself. It is a unified expression of the direct handiwork of God, to be guided by the Spirit for the sake of God’s ultimate glory and for the good of creation. It has no equivalent because it is of God, for God, from God, and with God. Everyone who is redeemed by faith in Christ through God’s grace is part of this Body. So, how can we describe this body as in what it is and how it functions? Well, the Apostle Paul gives us some clues as he wrote to the church at Philippi and in doing so describes one of the most important habits of a healthy body that Jesus himself, the leader of the body, demonstrated. As members of the body and even leaders in varying degrees, I think it is vital to not only understand this vital habit but also be able to demonstrate it ourselves; for if Jesus as our leader intentionally demonstrated it, we as his followers should as well. Paul tells the church of Philippi to do exactly that and I think it is a message for the Church today. So, read with me the follow passage from Philippians:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NIV)
It is clear from this passage that the foundation of the body is formed, constructed, cemented if you will, in and by Christ. Furthermore, the body relates to itself by and through the Spirit which, in a sense, enables the body to feel and have emotions. So, when the body is healthy and functioning as God intends there will be a “sameness”—a sameness of love, a sameness of spirit, and a sameness of mind. Do you and I have that when we are with the body? Is there a sameness? How about in your small group, your place of volunteering, or your family (noting that your family, if they are Christ-followers, is merely a unique expression of the Church and therefore the body)?
Another way to ask about sameness is to ask about whether our experience with the body is life-giving, that is does it give us energy, hope, joy, love and health? Do we get life when we are with the body, with other believers, or with our redeemed family members? We can and should but unfortunately many times we do not. In this passage, Paul writes as to why I believe in many cases we do not. Instead of giving life our actions and the actions of others gives off the wrong things. Paul describes these as “selfish ambition” and “vain conceit.” These are life taking, not life giving to the body. They are poison. Selfish ambition says this, “It is about me and what I want. What I want is most important. It is about what I can do and desire to do. My importance is wrapped up in what I accomplish. My need for accomplishment is most important.” This is the scorecard that is very much me-centric. Vain conceit is somewhat related to ambition but has a different flavor. It says, “It is about my image. What matters most is what others think of me. It is about my importance. My status must be known to the masses. I need visibility. My worth is tied directly to my popularity. My value as a Christ-follower is all about the recognition I get from doing what I do.” These are poison to you, to me, and to the body. I am confident that we each have experienced this in some form or fashion as we have interacted with the body. We, if we are honest, each have the potential to demonstrate these things in our own lives. Is there hope? Is there a cure for this poison? Yes! Paul goes on in this same passage to give us the antidote from Jesus, himself.
Humility is the key. Jesus learned humility through obedience. Will it be any different for us? No. We need to learn humility through obedience to the things and purposes of God as well. It is the life-giving habit based upon God’s grace. It is like breathing in clear, crisp, clean mountain air on a beautiful morning; whereas selfish ambition and vain conceit are like taking a deep breath of smog-filled air. One is life giving and the other is life taking. We as leaders in the body and as members of the body must learn to be humble at all times, not just when we think we need to or should. When we engender an environment of humility by our attitude and actions, that is wherever we go and whoever we see and interact with, we give and leave humility for others to experience. In a sense, it is what we give others to breath. It is life giving. Humility should be easily seen, heard, and experienced by others. People should not have to wonder whether we are humble or not. If others need to seek it, they may choke on the foul air around them in the meantime.
You and I will and always do give off something for others to breathe. Is it life giving or is it life taking? One of the most important roles of leadership in the body is to ensure it is strong, it is alive, it is vibrant, and it can do what it needs to, which means it needs humility. If the leaders are not humble, the body will be weak and may not survive long. Given this is what and who Christ is; it is an important aspect for members of the body to understand, especially the leadership within it. Please note that full obedience to God requires humility. Whatever God has called you to be and to do, it will require humility to achieve. If as a mom, as a dad, as a wife, as a husband, as a daughter, as a son, as a volunteer, as a worker, as a leader, as a manager, as a pastor, or as a whatever, it will require humility to be God’s best representation here and now. Again, there is no obedience without humility. As leaders in whatever capacity God has us, we must enable life for others entrusted to our influence, which means we must demonstrate and release humility for others to breathe!