In September of 2014, I was living with my best friend’s family and working at Denny’s in Rogers.
It was a busy week and I got home tired. I knew that there was this birthday party that we had all been invited to and my best friend’s older sister had decided that, even though she didn’t really want to go, that she was going to go to this birthday party. She asked me if I wanted to go with (she’s a little more introverted and could’ve used a social buffer in this situation). I told her that I was tired and would rather stay at home. She got ready to go and went out the front door to get in the car.
As I was sitting there, watching TV, Philippians 2:1-8 ran through my head:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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.
Then Paul explains what this looks like in Jesus’s life:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is your in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in the human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I had just been talking to some high schoolers about this passage the previous Saturday to talk about love. The love that is described here is self-sacrificing, humble love. It is not a self-focused love. Just look at Jesus! He’s God! And yet he looks at all the benefits of being God, all the power, all the standing, all the glory— he doesn’t hold on to it. He lets it all go. Why? Because in humility, he counted us more significant than himself. Let me say that again: Jesus, who is God the Son (the second Person of the Trinity) and all things exist through him, counted us more significant than himself. What I just said would be blasphemy if it wasn’t written right in the Bible. Jesus, the Son of God, the most valuable person in the universe looks at us and didn’t consider his own interests—but ours! He sees that we are dead in our sins and— rather than giving us what our sins deserve— leaves heaven’s throne and is born in a feeding trough in Bethlehem. He rubs shoulders with untouchables. Rather than sending away the crowd of over 5,000 people, he decides that he’ll spend the next few hours breaking bread and tearing up fish to feed them. He washes his disciples dirty, poop-caked, smelly feet. For all intents and purposes, Jesus looked like a slave. Why? He loved them. He loved us. So he laid aside every right he had and died. Jesus wasn’t focused on what his disciples could do for him or receiving the honor that he deserved on earth while he was here. He didn’t use people for selfish gain.
So, I got up from watching TV, went outside, and got in the car. Jesus had loved me by becoming a slave and looking out for what was best for me. The least I could do was go bowling with a friend.
Something shifted that night in my friendship with my best friend’s sister. We both noticed it. Jesus’s dying, humble love had shifted the friendship. It wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t looked for, but the friendship had seen the light of Jesus’s love and Jesus wanted to change it forever. I’ve now been married to this incredible woman that I went to go bowling with for five years.
I don’t share this story to say that if you’re single and you just love people with no expectation of reward that God will bless you with a spouse. No. That’s not the point at all. My point is that God’s heart is to bless us when we obey him. The blessing might be something in this life. But God’s greatest blessing will be given to us in the next life: the presence of the God-Man who didn’t count equality with God a thing to hold on to so that he could serve us in love. So, let us love one another, knowing that God’s heart is to bless our self-sacrificial love.