The Absurd Way to Build Real Community

Photo by  Masha Danilova  on  Unsplash

How often do you “like” someone’s Facebook post because you don’t want to be the friend who didn’t like it? Or how often do you perform a kind action because you want to look better than someone else? Do you act out of love, or is there a sense of competition with others? Do you feel as though you need to give your opinion all the time because you want people to think you’re well informed?

We want communities and relationships that are healthy, joyful, full of peace and love, and—most of all—real. But how do we get there, and what are some deterrents to reaching that goal? Ephesians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry 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.”

The Community Killers: Competition and Pride

The apostle Paul exhorts us to avoid “selfish ambition or conceit” (Phil. 2:3) for good reason. Competition and pride are the killers of community and relationships because they are antithetical to true service. Both are intrinsically looking for accolades from people, and success means you have to outperform others through either superior achievement or putting them down in your mind or speech.

Instead, we are to act in ways contrary to competition and selfishness, treating others as if they had more value than we do and tending to their needs along with our own (Phil. 2:4). The first is actively putting oneself in a “lesser” position, and the second puts another person’s needs on the same level as ours.

The Absurdity of True Service

This type of service seems absurd to worldly thinking, which teaches that to survive we must push for our rights, demand what we feel we are owed, and climb the social and economic ladders by doing what is best for ourselves. But Paul teaches that this is not the way Christians should think when connecting with each other. In fact, our relationships with fellow Christians are especially to be marked by putting others forward and looking to serve them. Before you say, “how extreme is this!” note that Paul gives Christians the paradigm we are to follow by pointing to Christ as our example.

Christ’s True Service and Our Example

Christians are to set their minds and hearts on following the pattern of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2: 5-8). He was God, yet he became man—what a colossal change in status! God the Son took on corruptible flesh and became a humble man. The Word who created the world became a man, affected by the trials and sorrows of human life (John 1:3). The Son of God did not come to earth to have a good time; instead, he came to die. His whole life was one devoted to service, looking forward to an agonizing climax in death. While he was Lord of heaven and earth, he considered himself a servant to God the Father’s wishes—serving a sinful and broken people, even to his death (John 13: 4-5; Eph. 5:25). This is the type of example that Christians are to exhibit with one another (1 John 3:16). 

“Taking the Hit” in Practical Ways

In practice, this type of service often looks like giving up to others’ needs: watching a movie you don’t particularly like but your spouse does; spending time with a friend who needs some companionship when you’d rather catch up on other tasks or relax after a hard week; going the extra mile to help a church member who hasn’t been particularly nice to you; or letting someone boast about an accomplishment when you know they didn’t contribute to the results as much as they think they did. Christians are to metaphorically die for their brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).

Most Christians are familiar with Jesus' words, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Laying down our lives for others never means allowing them to abuse us—either emotionally or physically. It does mean that at times we will sacrifice our own wants and desires out of love for another person. Godly confrontation is another way of showing love and taking the hit, since people probably aren’t going to like you when you do that. Yet, it is another way of laying down your life for the well being of the person you are confronting who is sinning.

Whenever we emulate Christ’s life of service, we will lose. Whether it is a loss of control, comfort, or sense of superiority, we will “take the hit,” but we will gain so much more as we see communities and relationships benefit and be strengthened.

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