Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything through selfish purposes or conceit, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Here is a fact: God has made us to have relationships. We can have a relationship with Him and we can have a relationship with other people. Since Adam and Eve, maintaining relationships have been a major struggle between man and man, and man and God. One of the biggest causes of unhappiness in our world is strained relationships. Conflict kills happiness. There is a daily struggle to live in a world where there is no conflict. Whether it be nation against nation or family member against another family member or you and anybody else, to live conflict free is a struggle.
How do you handle the conflict? How do you strive for unity? Unity is a key ingredient for success and fulfillment in life. Successful organizations have people that get along and work together. You name it, it applies: sports teams, government, families, and yes churches are not vibrant and living unless we work together. Very little is accomplished in life by yourself and without cooperation. When there is unity there is tremendous power and potential. Unity and teamwork births synergy. Synergy is best defined as 1 + 1 =3. The problem is people don’t always get along, they don’t always co-operate. How do you strive for unity? How do you reduce conflict and increase cooperation?
Paul gives us the biblical answer. Let’s break it down. Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Christians, we are to have unity in Christ. We are supposed to get along with one another. There ought to be fellowship among us. Paul says we are to be like minded. We are to show the love to one another, because Christ has loved us. We are to display mercy and grace, because that is what God has shown us.
We are to put on the mind of Christ and if we did that we will be likeminded in unity and harmony. Unfortunately, unity and harmony does not happen very often. Churches without it, seldom advance the kingdom. In verses 2:3-8 Paul gives us five practical steps to finding joy through reduced conflict.
“Don’t do anything through selfish purposes or conceit, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” Wow, one verse gives us the first three steps of reducing conflict.
1. Stop having selfish AMBITIONS
All too often we compete with people who are supposed to be on our team. What type of team will ever win if they a busy competing with themselves, rather than working together? Stop fighting one another. When you were children you might have competed with your brothers and sisters but now you’re much older and supposed to be grown up. But some of you are still competing with your brothers and sisters, trying to prove that you’re better. That may be your ambition in life, it seems to pervade our society, “Let the world see that I am better than my brother or my sister or my neighbor.” You’re an adult and you’re still acting like a child! You’re on the same team, you’re in the same family! Stop holding on to selfish ambitions.
What are the ambitions in your life? How are they driving your life? Are your ambitions causing conflict? Look at what James 4:1 says on the subject: “What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives?” Our society teaches us instant gratification. When my needs and ambitions conflict with your needs and ambitions, we have trouble. We live in a very competitive world. If you want to have unity you need to check if your ambitions are selfish.
2. Stop having selfish CONCEIT
Let’s look again at verse three: “Don’t do anything through selfish purposes or conceit, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” How many of you like conceited people? Not too many. Pride can affect us all. We should not do things just to show off our egos. An egotist is an “I” specialist. His “I’s” are too close together. He is full of himself.
When this happens there is very little room for anyone else, including God, including Jesus. All he can see is himself. Self centered pride and arrogance is the result of conceit. The Bible says “Pride goes before destruction”. The person who gets too big for his britches will eventually be exposed in the end. Proverbs 13:10 tells us: The empty-headed cause conflict out of pride; those who take advice are wise. The first cause of conflict is competing ambitions.
The second cause of conflict is personal pride, when I’ve got an ego and refuse to admit it when I’m wrong there is bound to be quarrels. If you could eliminate conceit you would solve most of the people problems in today’s world. The third point is our scripture is a positive quality.
3. Increase HUMILITY
“but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” Paul says don’t put people down, lift them up. How? By treating them better than you would yourself. This is a radical concept today. Treat others better than yourself? Yes! That is what the Bible teaches. It is the exact opposite of what our culture teaches and today’s culture seems to love. The world is full of people who think they are better than everybody else. We have elevated selfishness to an art form, a quality characteristic. Paul tells us to decrease criticism because when you’re critical you’re thinking that you’re better than the other people.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of your-self less. Your focus isn’t on you, it is on others. Your focus is on other people. You are people centered, rather than self centered. The person that thinks he’s humble, isn’t. The humble person doesn’t even know it because he’s focusing on everybody else. Proverbs 29:23 tells us: Pride lays people low, but those of humble spirit gain honor.
We like to criticize and pick out faults of other people because it makes us feel superior. We easily see the faults of others when we ourselves have those faults. We think we build ourselves up by putting other people down. But the Bible teaches the exact opposite. If you want to decrease conflict in your life, decrease criticism, increase humility. Treat others better than you would yourself. The third cause of conflict is when I fail to value other people, when I treat them with less respect than they deserve.
4. Increase CONSIDERATION of others
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”
The Message Bible says it this way: “Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Don’t just be interested in what is going on your life, but be interested in the lives of other people too. Look out for them. The Greek word for “look” is “scopos” where we get the word “scope”, like the scope on a rifle.
A telescope, a microscope, both help you see things better. Care about the lives of other people. Pay attention to their needs. Demonstrate consideration of others. Be considerate of each other. Watch out for one another. Take care of one another. Nothing I’m saying is new, but doing it is harder than saying it.
5. Develop a Christ-Like CHARACTER
“Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus is our model. Jesus is our example. If you want to know how to get along with people. even those who are hard to get along with, look at the example of Jesus. We are to put on the mind of Christ and develop the same attitude toward others that He had. What is this mind? What was his attitude? It is found in our verses.
Though He is the very form of God, He didn’t demand His rights. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the Father’s will, even to the point of death, death on the cross. Jesus had a servants attitude. Do you? How do you know if you have a serving attitude? Let me ask you, “How do you respond when people treat you like a servant? Do you get up-tight and demand your rights?” If that is the case you don’t have a servants attitude.
Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for others, are you? Most of us know John 3:16 but do you know 1 John 3:16? “This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” This verse not only talks about the attitude of Jesus, but it talks about what our attitude should be. Have you got a servants attitude? Have you put on the mind of Christ?
It’s impossible to live a lifestyle of unselfishness on your own. It is human nature to be selfish, to only look out for number one. We all have that nature to do what we want to do. We are selfish, through and through. But Christ wants us to live different than that. He wants us to develop a Christ like character. He wants us to become like He is and He asks us to
Let this attitude be in you that was in Christ. Allow this attitude to be in you. Allow Christ take control of your attitudes. Allow Christ to take control of your mind. Submit to Him. Follow Him. Give yourself to Him today.