We are surrounded by voices crying out “I have rights!” and we head toward the fall, political season and elections, the cries will get louder and louder. It is important to understand our rights as citizens and to work for fairness, but followers of Jesus have an even higher priority. Those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior know that our calling is to love others the way God has, and does, love us. This means choosing to put the needs and interests of other in front of our own. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul states it this way, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (NLT). Now this sounds nice, but in the real world just seems, at best, naïve. Think about it, if people know you will treat them as the more important one, they will constantly take advantage of you. The short response to this is in many instances, yes, that is true. Human nature leads us to take what we can get, and only once OUR needs are fully met to consider others. Yet, God calls you and me to a different way of living and relating. Romans 5:8 states it starkly and clearly, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”(NLT) Those of us who know Jesus recognize that it is only by God’s kindness, patience, mercy and grace that we have been rescued and saved. All of this was His initiative. If He had waited until we deserved His love it would never have happened. Now, understanding how we’ve been treated by Him, we have the mandate to imitate Him and show the same kind of love to those around us.
An additional note about this verse: it is not saying that others ARE more important than we are, just that we are to treat them as if they are. We are created by God, with equal worth and dignity, as bearers of His image. There are no second-class people. For me to willingly choose to treat another as more important than myself, is an act of respect to God first. Rather than a sign of a poor self-image, it is the attitude of someone who knows who they are, and even more who’s they are!