Summary: A sermon about seeking to adopt the attitude of Jesus.
“Imitators of Christ”
A mother was making breakfast for her two little boys—Kevin and Ryan.
The boys starting arguing over who was going to get the first pancake, and so their mom saw this as the perfect opportunity for a moral lesson.
“Now boys, hold on a minute.
Let me tell you: If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, “Let my brother have the first pancake.
I can wait.”
The two children sat silent for a moment.
Then the five year-old, Kevin, turned to his younger brother and said, “Okay, Ryan, you be Jesus!”
There can be no doubt that what Paul is talking about this morning is so radically different from the way the world works and from the way we think and act that it can be almost overwhelming.
I mean, think about all the things you have been taught about the way things work in this world.
For example, I can remember hearing the following, not too inspiring advice, when I was growing up: “Look out for number one.”
And the basic idea behind this is that we should look out for ourselves rather than the needs of others.
We are number one!!!
Well, I’m number one, not you.
There is another saying which goes like this: “Do unto others as they would do unto you, but do it first.”
“Get in the first punch.”
“Race to the top—no matter who might get hurt or left out in the process.”
I mean, it’s survival of the fittest, right?
There can be no doubt that we live in a place filled with people and institutions who don’t care one iota about the needs and well-being of others.
It’s every man, woman and child for him or herself.
But Paul says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
This worldview is much different than the dog-eat-dog animalistic lives many of us have become accustomed to.
To put today’s Scripture Lesson in context, we need to look at what was happening at the Church of Philippi which prompted Paul to write this letter in the first place.
Things weren’t peachy keen.
People were being people.
The church was messing up.
There was division taking root.
Apparently, two women in the church had a falling out.
And this falling out was causing all kinds of strife.
Feelings were hurt.
The gossip mill was running.
People were beginning to take sides.
The war had begun.
The two women who were at odds with one another, weren’t terrible people.
They just had a disagreement, a misunderstanding.
Then, one thing led to another, and…
I’m sure this kind of thing has never happened to you.
It’s part of the human experience is it not?
But it is the kind of thing that rips churches apart, gets in the way of our walk with Jesus, and tears at the seams of the Church’s mission to serve the world in humility and love.
We get side-tracked by these things.
And before we know it, we are like a run-away train headed off the tracks.
And a lot of people can get hurt as a result.
And a lot of Kingdom work gets left undone.
These kinds of factions and angry divisions also cause those on the outside of the church to say: “Those Christians are no different than anyone else.
Why would I want to be a part of that?
I get enough of that junk at my job, or at home or wherever.”
Now there can be no doubt that Christians are no better than anyone else.
Of course, when we fight, when we demand our rights or demand that others bow down and ask forgiveness for hurting our feelings, we certainly are acting as if we are better than others, are we not?
So, in Chapter 4 of Philippians we are told that two women, whom Paul describes as his “fellow workers,” and people whose “names are in the book of life” are none the less not acting much like the Christ that they claim as Lord.
Have you ever done that?
I do it every day.
I’m such a mess.
What a sinner.
What a self-centered sinner I am.
It’s a miracle God puts up with me at all.
But He does.
In any event, Paul writes to the Philippian Church: “I plead with Eudodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
Yes, I ask you [to] help these women get along.”
Help them to be “like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
May they “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than themselves.”
And here comes the kicker: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”