E51: A lesson from Paul on how to love one another – Philippians series
PODCAST: Paul gave the Philippians some keys for how to really love. Can you guess what they are?
In the beginning of Philippians chapter 2, Paul gives the Philippians some advice on how they can really love one another. The instruction he gives there is still extremely relevant today. He wrote there: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4. In this first episode in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Kathy and Julia discuss how “lowliness of mind” and “esteeming others better” are keys in being able to love.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 51: A lesson from Paul on how to love one another – Philippians series
Welcome to ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we talk about how we can “live the gospel” every day, no matter who we are, where we live, and what our circumstances are.
Julia: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel!” I’m Julia.
Kathy: And I’m Kathy.
Julia: And today we are starting on our second series from season 2.
Kathy: Right. So, today we are going to start exploring Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It’s interesting because, for me anyway, when I read it, I find that the whole thing is just encouragement, from start to finish. And it paints a very real picture of what it means to be a Christian, actually.
Julia: So, it’s a very personal letter, because Paul writes from his own life. And for me it’s very provoking to read. There’s a lot of direct exhortations, if you want to call them that. Or just things that I can just … You can take one verse and work with it in your life. So, it’s a really good read.
Kathy: But at the same time, just extremely hopeful. Like, it’s not written in a condemning way, but just an extremely … This is the life! And you can live this life!
Julia: So, today’s theme specifically is these verses from chapter 2 verses 3 and 4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4.
Kathy: To me, if you boil it down, what these verses are talking about is love, right?
Julia: For sure.
Kathy: Basically, the main takeaway is that if I’m high-minded, if I’m all about myself and looking out for only my own interests and only my own selfish ambitions, I can’t love the others properly, right?
Julia: Yeah, it really limits you.
Kathy: And it blinds me to the needs around me when I’m so wrapped up in my own egotism. And Jesus gave us this commandment, He said, we can read it in John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Julia: “As I have loved you.” It’s a tall comparison.
Kathy: That is a high bar.
Julia: But totally possible!
Kathy: Totally possible! Or He wouldn’t have said it! But this lowliness of mind – or another word for that is humility, right – and it’s absolutely crucial to be able to fulfill Jesus’ commandment.
Julia: It really is. So, we could ask, what is lowliness of mind? Lowliness of mind is knowing that in me – that’s in my flesh – nothing good dwells, like it’s written in Romans 7. But also, it’s written in Matthew 19 that through God all things are possible. So, I can acknowledge that I myself can do nothing, but I know that God will equip me for every good work. So, lowliness of mind does not mean hopelessness. It’s the opposite.
Kathy: Right. And it’s not thinking of myself as useless and incapable. But it is knowing that He will equip me – and He has actually equipped me – for the good works that He has prepared for me to do. But what He’s given me, the abilities and the strengths that He’s given me, are specifically for that purpose, that I can build the body of Christ. Or in other words…
Julia: Serve the others.
Kathy: Serve the others. And love the others, right?
Julia: Well, we need to use these gifts in humility, knowing that they’re from God. It’s not that I’m so great and I can do this and that and I deserve honor because of the way that God made me, but that I, in humility, can use what God has given me to serve and bless the others. And let Him guide me into those works that we mentioned that He’s prepared for me.
Kathy: And, yeah, lowliness of mind isn’t looking down on myself and thinking like, “Oh, everyone else is better than me, and I’m useless, and I can’t do anything.” It’s not kind of preaching that to myself. Because if I have that kind of attitude of mind, I actually can’t do anything for anyone else. I can’t love the others if I see them as way above me, and … The same as I can’t love someone if I see them as way below me, right? In Romans 12 it’s also written that we should think soberly about ourselves as God has dealt to each one of us a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3.) So, it’s not pride to acknowledge that I can do this or that. But it is pride if I think of it as something that it makes me great to have this. But if I can see that God has given me this so that I can bless, then actually I can be a blessing.
Julia: You can be a blessing. And actually, having this, being down on yourself instead of having lowliness of mind, is a great hindrance in serving the others.
Kathy: Yeah, it is.
Julia: If I just think of a practical example, if one of the younger girls in our church is having a harder time, and I have this garbage attitude about myself that oh, everybody else is better talented and can give her better words and can draw from more, and I should just be humble and someone else who’s more talented, or whatever it is, than me can go …
Kathy: Has more wisdom.
Julia: Yeah. Can go and be a help for her. Well, how do I know someone’s going to step up? Why don’t I fill a need when I see it?
Kathy: Right. It’s written in James that when you lack wisdom, ask for it.
Julia: He gives to all liberally and without reproach.
In the same sentence in this verse here it says that we should esteem others better than ourself. So, what does that mean then? Obviously, like we just made it quite clear, that doesn’t mean to put yourself down, so what does it mean then?
Kathy: Right. I’ve been thinking about this a bunch recently. Just, how I look at and treat other people. And for me, it is natural as humans that certain people, by nature, irritate me, for example. Or I think that they do things the wrong way or whatever, right? Different people cause different reactions from my nature. But for me it’s become so clear that when I look at each person, I have to look at them through God’s eyes. Not my own eyes. And I have to think, this is actually a human being that God made in His own image. And this person is beloved and valuable to God and if I’m not treating them that way, then what I’m saying, is that God didn’t create this person right. This person is lacking something, and there was a lack when God created this person.
Julia: Which is an incredibly arrogant thought to have.
Kathy: It’s so arrogant!
Julia: That my idea of what a person should be like is better than God’s.
Kathy: Yeah. And like, to have standards that I think other people need to live up to this standard in order to be good enough for me, really, is what it boils down to.
Julia: Well there’s only one standard that matters, and that’s Jesus Christ. And everything other than that is just human opinion.
Kathy: And you know, you can kind of think, well, that person isn’t living to that standard of Jesus Christ. But, it’s none of my business, actually.
Julia: No, we’re all in a development.
Kathy: And I have no business judging what anyone else is doing. So, what I do have any business doing is judging what I’m doing, and how I’m treating the others, right? And so, I have to come into this work, this battle. And it is a battle. But I have to fight to come into love for people, right? So I guess then the question is, how can we start to love people and esteem others better, if I don’t by nature?
Julia: When I cleanse myself from all my own thoughts about a person, all these human opinions that I have, and I personally have a lot of them, so it’s been something that I’ve been working on …
Kathy: And when you say “cleanse yourself from them” you mean, judge those thoughts.
Julia: Judge those thoughts and “put them to death” inside of me so that they don’t come out and affect my actions and affect the other person in a negative way. This person that, like you just said, God cares for and loves.
Kathy: And that it doesn’t come into your heart.
Julia: Mmhmm. So, when I cleanse myself from all these thoughts, all these, you know, thinking I’m right or better, my irritation over other people’s quirks, or even just their basic personalities, instead I can pray for them and occupy myself with having good thoughts about them. And then, yeah, I give room for God’s thoughts about that person to come in. Because His thoughts for that person – I’m pretty sure we quote this verse every single podcast – is for a future and a hope. That verse in Jeremiah 29. And then I begin to see how valuable that person is in God’s eyes. So, it’s actually a conscious work to replace my human thoughts with these Godly thoughts about other people. And I know for myself, in working with maybe the younger people at church or whatever, I am constantly praying that God can widen my heart for these people, so that I’m not just this heart that’s so full of me and I and mine that it has so little room for others. And then it’s just a few others who already fit into the spaces that I created there, and you know … It’s just to have this wide heart that’s just open to people as they are, and loves them and …
Kathy: I’m just going to find a verse quickly that just came to me. Let me just search it here, I don’t know exactly where it is. So in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we can read the story about a guy named Jabez. And he had this prayer: “‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” And just that he prayed that God would bless him indeed, and it wasn’t a prayer for earthly blessing that he was praying. He wanted to live in such a way that others were blessed by him. And that was the blessing that he wanted, that he didn’t cause pain, but especially that struck me, that “enlarge my territory.” So, if I see that I am full of these selfish ambitions and … how does it say it?
Kathy: Selfish ambition and conceit, and I’m lacking in this lowliness of mind and this ability to esteem others better, then I need to have this prayer in my heart, “Enlarge my territory. Open my eyes so that I can see the others as greater so I can esteem the others better and so that I can do what I do out of love.”
Julia: Well, when you think about Jesus, who if anybody, you could say, had the “right” to think highly of themself, it was Jesus. And yet He said that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. That was the attitude of mind that He had.
Kathy: We can actually read more about Jesus in those verse right below in Philippians 2. So starting at verse 5 it says: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:5-9. So that was Jesus’ attitude.
Julia: And that’s what we can reach out for.
Kathy: Yeah, and that Jesus, who did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, in other words, like, that’s where He was, and He humbled Himself to become like us! A human being with the same … in the likeness of men He came, it said.
Julia: To the extent, it says, to the point of death. To the extent that He died for us. For those of us who were the worst sinners. In a way you can say that there was no justifiable reason for Him to die for such people as that, you know. Because you can look around you at people and you can … I said earlier that you don’t judge people because we’re all in a development. Some people aren’t. Some people are in no way working on themselves. But Jesus showed so much love to everyone.
Kathy: Isn’t it much, much better to come from below someone and lift them up instead of putting them down and being harsh and demanding on them?
Julia: Well, if you read Philippians and any of Paul’s letters, that’s exactly how it is. Like, all of the encouragement that he gives is coming from the place of somebody who is running the same race. We’ve heard the quote before that to exhort someone is to run alongside of them shouting words of encouragement.
Kathy: Words of encouragement. Not words of condemnation.
Julia: So, it’s not to be up there in my high place looking down on someone and pointing out all the things that I can see from my lofty position. But that I have this lowliness of mind, that I am also in a development; I am also working to become free from the sinful nature that I have. And then I can have only hope and care for the others around me.
Kathy: It’s interesting because, you know, it’s written that those who humble themselves will be exalted, right? But we don’t seek exaltation for the sake of being exalted, but so I was kind of thinking about, then what does that mean to be exalted, actually? And, to be exalted is when I humble myself, I’m going to be conformed to the image of Jesus. To be conformed to the image of the Son. (Romans 8:29.) That’s the exaltation that I get. It’s not that I’m going to look good in the eyes of people, or I’m going to get some kind of standing or recognition for anything I do. And that’s not what I’m working towards, and that’s not why I humble myself. I have this that my whole longing is to be like Jesus. And that’s the grace I’m going to get.
Julia: And what could be more exalted than that, to be someone who’s free from sin, right?
Kathy: Like, literally, there’s nothing better. And when I am like Jesus, when I’m learning to be like Him, and when I’m following His footsteps, then I really get grace to find how I can help the others. If I’m learning to love like Jesus, to be patient like Jesus, to be kind like Jesus, to be gentle like Jesus, and to have the virtues of Jesus as my own, then I really am, in lowliness of mind, going to be able to serve the others, right?
Julia: Yeah. Well, and it’s the only way to be a real blessing. Like, there’s this song that is written in the 1920s; I believe it belongs to the Salvation Army. But there’s a verse here that says: “The faults in others are not hard to find, but can you bear in mercy and be kind? The bonds of love keep strong in all you do. Do unto others as God does to you.” The human reaction to finding fault in others is to be offended, to have a need to correct them, whatever it is, but can you bear in mercy and be kind? Especially when you consider that, shortcomings that I have, when I become aware of them, then it can be extremely provoking and encouraging for me to realized that other people who had to experience that from me reacted with love and goodness. Instead of whatever it was, setting me in my place, or you know, making me feel like dirt because of the way I am. You can’t be a real help for someone with your words, unless they come from love.
Kathy: No, you really can’t. Because otherwise …
Julia: It just makes it heavy.
Kathy: … everything you do is saturated with self-seeking, right? It’s because I want a personal level of comfort, right? And when someone acts this way, it puts me out of my comfort zone, or … Like, that is actually why I get irritated at people and why things people do … or I get bitter at someone, or I get offended, right?
Julia: Because I lack love.
Kathy: Because I lack love, and because I just want to be comfortable myself. Right? So, when I learn to see those selfish demands that come from my own nature, my own flesh, and I put those on the cross – in other words, I overcome them by the grace that I have and the power that I have in the Spirit, right? When I do that, and then I can learn to love and give and bless and serve the others in the right way.
Julia: And what could possibly have more of a drawing effect to Jesus than that? To see that life of Him coming through in somebody on this earth. That we are the light of the world, Jesus says that we’re a city set on a hill. And that’s a huge part of what we want as Christians, is to spread the gospel, that as many people as possible can come into this relationship and this life with Jesus. And what could possibly be a better light to shine then when people see you, when you come into situations where you bump up against other personalities, against whatever, if people experience just softness and goodness and love from you? That life itself, that can speak much more than many words.
Kathy: Yeah, absolutely.
Julia: So, we touched on this before, but just again, just a super important reminder that humility is not feeling worthless. What it does mean is that I put all my confidence in God and His abilities, instead of being limited by thinking that, oh, because I’m not this way by nature I can’t do it. That’s not humility. But to give up my own will and ideas when I see that they’re tainted by that tendency to sin that lies in my nature, and instead carry out God’s will. He can give me everything that I require to do that. So, if I understand that there’s nothing good in my sinful nature, but then I’m also full of faith and confidence that God is able to do a transforming work in me.
Kathy: Yeah. And you know, we’re talking about that, that in my nature, in my flesh, nothing good dwells. And Eunice and Milenko did an episode called, “The battle tactic you need for fighting the lusts of the flesh,” and that episode really goes into this, what it means that “in my flesh nothing good dwells.” And the difference between your flesh and you, your heart and mind that wants to serve Jesus. So, I really recommend going back and listening to that one if you haven’t. Or listening to it again if you have, because for me, just understanding that is so helpful for in this battle to know the difference between low self-esteem and humility. Yeah. So I would really recommend listening to that again.
Julia: That’s all we had for today, so we hope that it was helpful for you, and edifying. Whatever platform you’re listening on, if you have a minute that you can take to leave us a review or a rating, that would really help to spread the word, spread the podcast as much as possible so that as many people as possible can hopefully benefit from it and get some help from it.
Kathy: It actually really helps. So if you have it on your heart, please do that.
Julia: So thanks so much for joining us today, and you’ll be with Eunice and Milenko next time, talking on the same theme. And we’ll see you again soon.
Kathy: Bye everyone.