By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
...then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. – Phil. 2:2
Lately, the news has been extremely disheartening. COVID-19 cases are on the rise, racial injustice continues, and we are more polarized politically than anyone can remember.
Here in America, the presidential debate was more caustic than any other in recent history. We are not alone. Other countries are polarized as well. To make matters worse, the polarization seems to be ripping apart churches.
If the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at this current time in history, I wonder what he would say?
As I’ve been thinking about this, my mind went to Philippians 2. I first memorized Philippians 2 as a young college student engaged to be married right after graduation. From my perspective, Philippians 2 gave some of the most helpful advice on a godly marriage and the subject of unity. I believe we need the truth found in this passage now more than ever. Paul wrote:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in 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 of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves... – Philippians 2:1-3
The phrase, “value others” stands out to me as being key to how we handle ourselves during these difficult days. Paul’s instructions seem especially pertinent today. As followers of Jesus, we need to consider our posture in light of COVID-19 and other critical current events. So, how do we want to show up as believers?
Here are four suggestions, inspired by Philippians 2:
1. Stay Humble
One of the key character traits of Jesus mentioned in Philippians 2 was His humility. Paul invites us to follow Christ’s example. He is our King. Yet, He laid down every right of heaven to become a servant here on earth (Philippians 2:5).
Jesus never fought to grip the power that was rightfully His. I fear sometimes we—especially here in America—forget that Jesus never once, in any of the Gospels, demanded His rights be met. He came as a servant and calls those of us who follow Him to do the same (John 13:12-17).
Humility can begin with simple things, like wearing a mask. You might have a high resistance to diseases and a great immune system, but others around you might not. It’s a small inconvenience to wear a mask, but it’s also a loving gesture to protect others.
If Paul were writing the church today, he might say, “In humility, value others and wear a mask.”
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2. Be Empathic
As followers of Jesus, Paul warns us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). In our current polarized culture, I think arguing could fall into the category of “selfish ambition.”
We have strong opinions, and we want to prove our point. It’s okay to have strong opinions, as long as those views aren’t used to attack other people. Rather than arguing to prove your point, why not listen to understand? Learn to listen with empathy.
Empathy has been described as the ability to walk in another’s shoes. In other words, putting yourself where the other person is so you can understand their feelings. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He left the glories of heaven to walk in our shoes. As His followers, He calls us to offer an empathic ear to others.
The current racial issues we are facing give us an opportunity to practice empathy. We have a whole segment of the population who are not feeling heard or valued. Reach out and ask someone of another race how they feel. Ask if they’ve experienced racial prejudice. Focus your attention on understanding and offering empathy. Do not correct, judge, scold, or offer solutions. Just listen and seek to understand.
3. Show Respect
When we think of Paul saying that we are “to value others,” he is calling us to remember that every person has been created in the image of God. No matter what a person’s political views are, they are to be treated with respect.
As I think about our current polarized culture, I wonder, where is the church? How do unbelievers see us? Are we listening with respect, even when we disagree? How can we cross the distance to make another person feel valued even if they have a different perspective than us?
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4. Remain Calm
I have read through the Gospels hundreds of times and I don’t ever remember reading about a time when Jesus was frantic or frazzled, do you? He came to bring calm to our chaos. He invites us to bring His calm to others.
Remember when Jesus was in the boat with His disciples and the wind and the waves were crashing all around (Mark 4:35-41)? Jesus was asleep and His disciples were freaking out. The wind was getting stronger and the waves higher. Frantically, they woke Jesus.
I imagine Jesus sighed before He calmly stood and rebuked the wind and the waves, commanding, “Peace be still!” In these polarized, uncertain times, I believe God is looking for those who have internalized Jesus’s calm and can speak to the world, “Peace be still!”
Rather than stirring up worry and fear, seek to bring calm to your community. The Master of the wind and waves has not retired. He is still in control and so you have every reason to reassure those around you that it’s going to be okay. God is in control. Speak it and show it with your life.
The question of our current times isn’t necessarily what will happen in the upcoming election. It’s not necessarily if COVID-19 will still be around. The question is, how will you show up during these uncertain times?
Will you have the same attitude that Jesus had, being humble, empathic, respectful, and calm? The truth is, the world hears your actions louder than your words.
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Related: Listen Now to our popular podcast, How to Study the Bible, on Philippians 2:
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Authentic. Passionate. Funny and biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. Her books include Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom From Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge, The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents, How to Listen So People Will Talk, Who Do You Say That I Am, Listen Well, Lead Better, Psalms for the Anxious Heart: A 30 Day Devotional for Uncertain Times, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise (releasing June 2021). Becky is a certified coach through the John Maxwell Team. She coaches those looking to improve their communication skills, those in positions of leadership, and parents who are looking for deeper connection with their kids.