Over the years, as I have meditated on the implications of the numerous “one-another” commands in the New Testament, I have come to some sobering conclusions about our relationships.
- It is typical for us as believers to think that our relationships exist for us, to meet our needs (unfortunately, many best-selling Christian relationship books feed this mindset). However, this is not a Christ-centered thought, but is part of a self-centered worldview.
- Our relationships do not exist, primarily, to meet our needs.
- Our relationships exist, primarily, to give us the opportunity to glorify God by serving others.
What keeps us from thinking this way—the correct, biblical way? What keeps us thinking that it is all about us? It is the selfishness of sin. It is self-concern, self-glory, self-preoccupation, and self-interest. Sin infects all of our relationships, as Paul Tripp writes:
Sin altered every thought, desire, word, and deed. It created a world of double-mindedness and mixed motives, self-worship and self-absorption. People desired to be served, but they hated serving. They craved control and nurtured delusions of self-sufficiency. They forgot their Creator, but worshiped his creation. Rather than loving people and using things to express it, people loved things and used people to get them.
Therefore, what is needed is a redemptive view of our relationships, which I prefer to call “others-esteem.” “Others-esteem” is the mindset that will energize our application of every one of the other one-another commands. Since this mindset is the fruit of humility, there is one primary place in Scripture to dwell upon in order to develop the doctrine of others-esteem.
Please take a few moments to read and think upon the truths found in Philippians 2:3-11. Three major concepts emerge from the text. First, take notice of the exhortation to humility of mind (vv. 3-4). This mindset fights against self-exaltation and feeds “others-esteem.” Second, notice the example of the humility of Jesus (vv. 5-8). Jesus did not adhere to the rights of His position, but instead assumed the posture of a servant and acted upon the Father’s will. Third, notice the exaltation Jesus will ultimately receive because of His humility (vv. 9-11). The Father will exalt the Son because of the Son’s willingness to humble Himself and be humiliated by others. As a result, one-day every knee will bow to His lordship.
How can we follow the example of Jesus? How can we intentionally cultivate “others-esteem”?
- We must see ourselves from God’s perspective. We are not indispensable, neither are we as important as we think we are (Rom 12:3).
- We must choose to think of others as more important than ourselves. Their needs are more important than mine (Phil 2:3).
- We must humble ourselves by assuming the posture of a servant, rather than proudly acting like a lord (Phil 2:5-7).
- We must resist the tendency to flatter ourselves (Prov 27:2).
- We must repent of the enemy within—our own self-centered pride (James 1:21).
- We must long for others to make much of Christ, rather than making much of us (Phil 1:20).
- We must choose to serve instead of giving in to our natural longing to be served (Mark 10:45).
- When we do serve, we must not toot our own horn and thereby lose our eternal reward (Matt 6:2).
- We must choose to do all things in love (1 Cor 16:14).
- We must repent of a critical spirit, which destroys unity, and replace it with the gracious, humble spirit of a servant (Phil 4:2-3).
This week, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to cause us to apply “others-esteem” to our relationships. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:1-2).