So, here I am, minding my own business, reading along in Romans, and I come across this.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:1-2)
If you're paying attention, it's very reminiscent of something Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Philippi.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
So the concept isn't just in Romans. In fact, the Philippians version places its reasoning squarely on the back of being like Jesus. "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus ..." (Philippians 2:5-8) That is, if you want to be like Jesus, be humble, which means consider others as more important, more significant, than yourself and seek to please them for their good rather than seeking your own good solely or even first.
It stirs a question in my mind. What would that look like? If Christians -- followers of Christ -- made a practice of this Christ-minded approach of seeking the welfare of others before their own interests, how would it look instead of what it looks like today?
How would it affect your driving? If your mindset was to "please my neighbor for his good", would your lane changes, your speed, your driving mindset be different?
How about your conduct in the grocery store (or any other store)? Would you be cruising the goods with your own shopping in mind or with those other shoppers around you in mind?
How would church look different? The standard view for many church-goers is to show up, get fed, and depart. The more "spiritually minded" of us will show up, get fed, help out, and depart. But if your view was to "please my neighbor for his good", wouldn't that alter your church experience in its aims and outworking? I cannot imagine that it would not change our giving patterns, in money, time, spiritual gifts and natural talents. I cannot imagine that it wouldn't fundamentally overturn the church experience for most of us.
How would it change parenting? So much of the time for parents is seeking peace. "Stop that!" because it's too much noise or embarrasing. What if parents' mindsets were to do the best they can for the sake of their children? Discipline, training, time spent (forget that nonsensenical "quality versus quantity" idea, as if quantity precludes quality and quality can occur without quantity), praying with them, teaching them the Word -- oh, this list goes on and on.
What difference would it make in your marriage? Our world screams "me first", especially in marriage. We get married "because of the way they make me feel" and we stay married "because they continue to give me what I want" and we terminate our marriages when we perceive that they've stopped. I believe that a marriage constructed on "please my spouse for his or her own good" cannot fail. The only "conflict" for this idyllic marriage would be who can do the other the most good. Think about how marriages would change if we spent them looking out for the best interests of the other over against our own.
How would your interactions with others look? Surely it wouldn't be uniform. I mean, if the biblical injunction to speak the truth in love is present (Ephesians 4:15), we would certainly need to tell people the truth based on love, and sometimes that would be painful, even dangerous. But if our mindset is taking care of our neighbor for his own good, we would not allow ourselves the luxury of self-preservation and personal comfort over the loving truth for others. Conversely, we would also take care to avoid conflicts with others because of their discomfort. James says that most of our quarrels are because of our own unfulfilled desires (James 4:1-2). Those would certainly cease in a Christ-like mindset of diminishing self in favor of the welfare of others. What other changes would our interactions encounter with this idea at the forefront of our minds?
When I consider the practical outworking of this concept, it boggles the mind. There isn't a corner of life that it doesn't touch. There isn't an interaction with another human being that it doesn't influence. It is simple yet monumental. It is biblical yet diametrically opposed to the world's way of thinking.
How would it look in your life? I know I see it rarely in people around me. More importantly, I know I don't do it enough. Do you?
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