Thursday, 8 October 2015

To be Liked or to be Like-minded

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." - Phil 2:5

Summer... Dog days. Luminous afternoons and balmy nights. Times of abundance, of harvests and al fresco feasting. Of picnics and frolics and freedom. Of little boys playing naked and carefree in a babbling brook. Limbs and joints feel soft. Cats uncurl and lay limp and lazy in the sun.

Strange how expressions like "dog days" linger, even when the origin or meaning has long been lost. I thought it referred to those devastatingly hot days of summer when dogs lie around, panting. But it was the ancient Romans who actually "coined" that particular phrase. It refers to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens at a certain time of year. To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe. As a result they performed various rites and rituals, burned bones etc. to keep themselves protected and in favour with their gods.

This in itself is a just a piece of trivia and I don't mean to attach deep spiritual value to it. Neither am I saying that one should refrain from using particular phrases because of their origin.

But lately I have found myself prompted to question the origin of "things" more and more. Not to the extent that it causes me sleepless nights (fortunately). On the contrary, it has often led to "freedom" from habits, beliefs, traditions and a way of talking, behaving and living that does not belong in the life of someone who belongs to Christ. When Jesus said "My yoke is easy", it was not meant as a riddle. It is true.

It is the self-imposed yoke of the world which is weighty. Self is weighty. And serving the demands of "self" in the world is most often a burden which causes damage to self and alienation from our Godly design.

In Paul's letter to the Philippians (second chapter),  there is a precious part of scripture, which has been living in me for the last few weeks. He writes:

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,

if any comfort from His love,

if any fellowship with the Spirit,

if any tenderness and compassion,

then make my joy complete by being like-minded,

having the same love,

being one in spirit and purpose.

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:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking on the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance
as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death - 
even death on a cross!

Therefore... God exalted Him
to the highest place
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus,
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

and then this sentence in verse 13:

"For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose."

The message is essentially about imitating Christ's humility and servant-hood. It is incredibly rich and one can spend years pouring over each phrase and word. This morning, these were the words that stood out for me: united, like-minded, same, likeness.

Just recently, I stepped away from Facebook. Deleted it from my life completely. This was a part of the yoke that I needed to get rid of and I must admit that I feel much lighter as a result. It was what I needed to do, for it was weighing me down. 

One of the things (among many others) which started bothering me, was my need to be "liked". The anticipation each time I  "posted" or "updated my status" on my "timeline". Waiting for the "likes" to appear and then feeling connected and appreciated when one or two people "liked" what I wrote or posted. And feeling let down when they didn't. This is not meant to be a criticism of FB as such. I'm using it as an example of one of the things that I have been led to question in my walk. It can be used positively and with discernment. It is simply what I felt convicted to do.

"Like" is a diluted and rather weak word, which we use for just about every thing that we feel positive about. When it becomes so important to let people know "what I like" and to "be liked", I tend to forget who I am in Christ, and what I reflect into the world.

(It is also strangely used as a "filler". A teenage boy recently responded to my asking him why he felt it necessary to be rude to one of our small boys by saying: "When a kid shoves something in my face, I get like really annoyed, you get it?").

But getting back to Phillipians 2...

What does it mean to me to be "like-minded" with other believers? (v2)

It starts with believing the same one and only true gospel of Christ, and having "the same love."

But how is it then that even among people who "have the same love", who accept Jesus as their Saviour and First Love, there are still such differences in opinion, disagreements, arguments etc?

As Jesus in very nature took on the "likeness of man", we take on the exalted likeness of the risen Christ. When I take my eyes off Him and opt to take on the likeness of the world, this is when the yoke gets heavy and my needs and likes and opinions are placed before those of others and ultimately before His will.

But can I truly become "like" Him? Have the same attitude as Him - the Son of God?

I cannot. Not even after a lifetime of meditation and self-searching and discipline. Not even if It is the sole purpose of my every day, spent in fervent effort to do what Jesus would do.

Through His death on the cross he has "united" us with Him. When I receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I become "one" with Christ, and His likeness becomes imprinted over mine. In surrender to His will and purpose, it takes the place of my good intentions and ambitions.

"For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose."

It is God who works in me to surrender my wants for His will. God who works in me to love the people who "dislike" Jesus in me. God who works in me to forgive them for mocking Him whom I hold most dear. God who works in me to be "like-minded" and one in spirit and purpose with those who do share the same love of Christ. God who works in me to forgive myself when I fail. For He doesn't.

Jesus Himself, in very nature God, did not grasp (seize) the "status" of being equal with God. He became nothing, a servant, obedient to death on the cursed cross. So that I may come before God, forgiven and blameless. His is the likeness I have imprinted on my heart.

By getting to know Him through His Word, spending time at His feet and surrendering to his will, we will be conformed to His likeness.  For "he who began a good work in you (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6)

"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us" - Martin Luther

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