Philippians 2:3-5 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
I recently attended a preaching class at the college where I teach. One of the students was asked whether he believes “God causes suffering for our growth.” The student wisely answered, “I’m only 20 years old, and honestly, I don’t know a lot about suffering, so I don’t think that I’m qualified to answer.” I found his humility refreshing.
We live in a competitive world. One-upmanship and the drive for power seeps through every aspect of life, from the school-yard playground to the halls of Congress. To admit that we don’t have an answer or that we are wrong or weak makes us feel vulnerable, and in our culture vulnerability just doesn’t play well. Defensiveness comes so…naturally. Yet, shockingly, Scripture tells us we should actually consider others better than ourselves! We’re called to look out for their interests as well as our own.
Sundar Singh, the great Indian convert who was so instrumental in bringing Christianity to India, presents a beautiful picture of a life free from defensiveness: “When I throw a stone at the fruit tree, the fruit tree throws no stone back, but gives me fruit…Should we not be like the sandalwood, which imparts its fragrance to the ax which cuts it.” Singh wasn’t just philosophizing. His profession of faith met the ax of persecution throughout his life. But the greater the injustices hurled at him, the stronger the fragrance of Christ became.
I don’t like getting hit by axes or stones any more than you do. But being our own defense attorney is both exhausting and futile. Why not cultivate the mind of Christ and decide not to cling to our rights? Why not humble ourselves and discover real security? The next time someone tosses an insult our way, why not do something radical? Why not give back fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness….As St. Francis prayed, sow love where there is hatred.
Let’s defuse the sticks and stones and names that really hurt us by taking on the mind of Christ.