In this series, we explore the question of why loving others is hard and what we can do about it. We look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:1-9). From Paul, we learn that loving others is hard because of our selfish ambition or conceit.
‘Conceit’ in Greek (kenodoxia) literally means “vain glory” or “empty praise”, the idea that the projected image of glory is not real. As much as we try, we cannot confer glory to ourselves. When we are ‘glorified’ by the praise of others, it then makes it easy to reciprocate with love. As long as we act out of this motivation for selfish glory, conceit makes it hard for us to love others who do not serve our selfish ambition.
The short answer to this problem is: Be humble.
Easier said than done, however. So, Paul asks us to look at the example of Christ’s humility. There are two layers to this example. The first is to look at Christ as a role model – the classic WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). The second is to learn to dwell “in Christ Jesus” which is made possible by what Jesus has done on the cross.
WHAT WILL YOU DO
‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.’ This is Rick Warren’s helpful summary of a passage in C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. Read the following extract in the Chapter titled “The Great Sin” (spoiler, the great sin is pride):
“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”
Are you willing to take the first “biggish step” today?
Is there a particular area in your life where you are having difficulty taking this step?
“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 (ESV)