Text: Philippians 2:1-4 February 10, 2013.
1) Dr. Joe Stowell said this: ¡°I love being with people...most of the time. There is a special joy that resonates in our heart when we are with people we enjoy. But unfortunately we are not always with people we like to be around. Sometimes people can be prickly. No wonder someone had said, ¡®The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog! When we don¡¯t find joy with someone, we tend to blame the other person; then we excuse ourselves as we exit to be with people we like.¡±
2) Apostle Paul said this: But the apostle Paul asks us to lovingly engage with all people. He calls all of us to be ¡°of one accord,¡± to look out ¡°for the interest of others,¡± and to ¡°let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.¡± (Phil 2:2-5) Think about this. Jesus gave up his prerogatives and privileges for us; he chose to live as a servant and paid the ultimate sacrifice that we might be brought into a joyful relationship with God. (Hebrews 12:2) He did this in spite of our prickliness. (Romans 5:8) It is much easier to love our Valentines, but Jesus wants us to love all people, the lovable and the not.
THESE PEOPLE WE LOVE TO BE WITH:
1) Those who are our kind: Many large cities in America, there are communities where minority groups love to congregate. We know well places like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Italy, Saigon, etc. People have a tendency to congregate with those of their kind: same race, same culture, language, and the like. It is a natural inclination to associate with those who have the same background as ours. Because it provides a sense of security and convenience to survive. This is also true in Christian ministry and churches. We see language churches in almost all part of the world, particularly in metropolitan areas. In church growth strategy, we call this indigenous growth.
2) Those whom we like better: Putting you in a group of people, like in a class, a church or an office at work, you will soon feel you are closer to some of them than others. You feel easier to relate to them, you like them more than the rest. If you want to give reasons on the why, you may give a few reasons to justify your condition. Sometimes it is the feeling, other times it is the experience. Still other times you find it hard to explain. The fact is you love to associate with people you like better.
3) Those who hold similar values: Each of us live, act, make decision according to a set of values we believe in, hold fast and are dear to our hearts. These include moral values, religious beliefs and political stands. It is difficult, if not impossible, for people of opposite values in morality, religion or politics to be very close friends unless they can set aside their differences. This is true because they see things differently, approach problems in different ways and make decision based on different values
4) Those who make us feel loved: Love has magnetic power that draws people closer to each other. This is true in relationships regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic conditions. We love to be around those who love us and/or we love them. This is true in many human entities like family, friendship and relationships. Love is list at the last but it is the most powerful bond we hold each other close. Love can bond people together even they are very different in other areas of life.
SURROUNDED BY ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE:
1) God created all of them: We know that God created man and woman on the sixth day, along with some other things, and when he looked at them, he said, ¡°This is very good.¡± (Gen 1:31) No one knows why did God created some pricky people and why they are there close to you. But one thing is clear, they were created by God. And it is in His wisdom to put them around or close to you. You can either accept God¡¯s plan and wisdom, try to work it out your best under the circumstance, or you can get mad at God and them and feeling sad or angry all day long, or trying to fight them off and fail at every turn
2) Very good sharpening stones: We know all knives need to be sharpened once a while to do their best job and sharpening stones are necessary to do the job. Same thing applies to lour life. We could grow dull in our life and become less useful in finishing God¡¯s purposes in us, that is the time we need to be sharpened and these pricky people serve this purpose: we learn best to deal with problems and problematic people by dealing with them. King Solomon says it right: ¡°As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens his friend.¡± (Pro. 7:17) You may not accept pricky people as your friend but they serve good purpose to make you a better person.
3) They help you grow character: I mean Christian character. Paul in his writing encourages us to deal with difficult circumstance and people. He says, ¡°Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character and character hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts.¡± (Romans 5:3-5)Almost without exception, people with great success had gone through lots of difficult time in their lives. They grow stronger, wiser, look further and had achieved more.
4) They are mirrors of our life: Not one has all the pricks in his life or has nothing good in him. Through dealing with people we don¡¯t like that much, we may learn some good lesson from their pricks, so we don¡¯t have to repeat their mistakes. If we take them as mirrors of ourselves, by watching their life, we may see some defects in us otherwise we could never see. Wise people learn from failures of others without repeating their mistakes.
BUILD YOUR OWN VALENTINE: (Phil 2:1-4)
1) The best place to start: ¡°Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation in love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any affection and compassion.¡± (2:1)Some car dealers put up very fancy ads on their car sales: Build your own car-----make it the way you want it. In fact, no one may truly build a car from scratch at a dealer the way he wants it. The best he can do is choosing some options to add to the car which was built complete at the factory. Same is our relationship with people around us: We cannot and will not be able to build the circle of people around our life exactly the way we want it. Paul lists several important elements to make human relationship the way we want it. But they all hinged on two words: In Christ. Without Christ as the center of human relationship, everything will fade and shattered.
2) The best way to pursue: ¡°Fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings and focusing on the same goal.¡± (2:2)In every relationship including the closest between parents and children, husband and wife there are similarities and differences. If we focus so much on our own likes and needs and the differences, we will split and go our own way, farther and farther away from each other. Paul encourages us to focus on our similarities, keep growing those ¡°same¡± elements so our relationship will grow closer and closer. Paul calls on us to focus on the way we think, we love, we feel and the goals we pursue. No two persons are exactly the same in any chance. If we are willing to find common ground, common goal, mutual love and feelings, we will have a close and cordial relationship, a Valentine.
3) The low position to take: ¡°Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, in humility consider others as more important than yourself.¡± (2:3)This is about being humble, honest and respect of others in our dealing with others. No competition, no personal agenda, no pride or glory on our own when we deal with people. Always be ready to take the low position or the short end of a stick even to the point of self sacrifice. The world pushes a ¡°win at all costs¡± approach in personal relationship or business deals, but we will take the Christian way by giving others the first row seats. We believe that God is in charge of our life, positions, gain and loss, and He can do a much better job to protect us for His glory.
4) Treat others as ourselves: ¡°Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others.¡± (2:4) To look out for our interest is not necessarily being selfish, it is also being responsible for our well being. Everyone should do his best to take care of his own business and meeting his own needs. But God also wants us to look out for the interest of our family, friends, people in our church, our neighbors, coworkers and people in the community. We are not just responsible for our own needs; we are also responsible for the needs of other. If we want others to care about us, we need to care about them first. In a close-knit society like ours today, the well being of one person is closely related to someone else. This is true in the family, at school, at work, in the church and the community. We ought to look after each other for mutual benefit and protection.
APPLICATION OF BIBLICAL TRUTH:
1) It is more than at Valentine: The meaning of Valentine Day has changed a lot through the years. It is no longer about our lover, our spouse any more. Valentine includes people whom we love, those who are important in our hearts and life. Once a year, on this day, to celebrate a love relationship of one person is not enough. God wants to see us surrounded by our loved ones each and everyday of our life. So, do more, try harder, go farther to build relationships with all people around you. Make some difference in someone¡¯s life as Jesus did in our lives.
2) The best of all Valentines: And that is our Lord Jesus Christ. His love for all human beings costs him his life. No greater love is the love of God in Jesus Christ. He died so you can live. If you are looking for the real Valentine, the one who is the origin of all love, the one who loves you with his life and the one who will never quit on you and that is Jesus the Lord. Today, you can open your heart to let Him enter your life, be your savior to forgive your sins and to lead your life to a higher ground on earth and in heaven to be with God.