Selflessly Modeling Jesus’ Example: Learning how to see others, up to and including, Ourselves! Ephesians 5:1-2

I begin today’s devotional by asking each of us to reflect for a moment.

Are you a safe person?

I don’t mean are you likely to become violent… I mean… do you believe you are safe for other people to approach….and relate to? Do you relate to other people as a potential threat you need to defend against…. or as God’s gift to be opened?

What kind of space do you create for others?

Our Christian focus is on “being like Jesus,” on “imitating Jesus,” building better relationships… so this may be one of those most important questions.

This devotional is about building better relationships in every point of relating.

We are engaging the qualities that can help us develop better relationships with those “neighbors” we are just beginning to engage…as well as building better relationships with the family and friends who we have known for many years.

No matter what the state of our relational life is… we can all move further from self-isolation to His intimacy. We can all develop more meaningful connection.

It is incredibly, almost embarrassingly easy to say but it’s not ever so easy to do.

I hear the prophetic words of Isaiah’s Commission ringing through my soul.

Isaiah 6:8-10 Amplified.

Isaiah’s Commission

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
10 
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

We do not love ourselves as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We don’t love our neighbors as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We do not love God as naturally as we would all like to profess, we do.

We do not imitate or model our Savior Jesus Christ as we all profess, we do.

So, now we are looking at the one who embodied the very nature of God…that is Christ Jesus, our Savior…and how he loved in this world…how the love of God was reflected within the patterns of his life…which we can embrace as our own.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

Be Imitators of God

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

Ephesians 5:1-2The Message

Wake Up from Your Sleep

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Watch what God does, and then you do it …… like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.

Observe how Christ loved us. … then model Love like that. (1 John 4:7-12)

And today… the pattern we are about to be engaging is how to see others up to and including ourselves. Learning to see others EXACTLY as Jesus saw them.

Because (shamefully?) the way we see people determines how we treat people.

Most of us may fall into a dangerous snare: presume that we see people with respect and treat them well…like Christ treated us but what about if they aren’t being kind to us? What if they are being just plain annoying… or offensive?

Or, what if I am the one who is being just plain annoying?

Or, what if I am the one who is consciously or unconsciously giving offense?

Or worse… if I don’t see what they can do or me…maybe I don’t see them at all.

So how does God see people?

What did Jesus see?

As the Biblical account of Matthew describes…

Matthew 9:36? When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew is telling us how Jesus saw the crowds.

How Jesus observed his neighbors – The crowds.

Not the select. Not the special. But the crowds which represent the common nature of people like you and I…and everyone else in this world.

We can assume such lives included the same annoying offensive attitudes and behaviors that are, even in our days and seasons, common among human life.

There is no sense that they held much that Jesus could get from them… as he seemed to have already understood how the hearts of humanity would turn on him when any sense of transactional desires for power were deemed done with.

He sees these common lives with compassion.

Compassion is not simply having pity for someone at a distance.

It’s a word that speaks of actual connection. The word used here… translated as compassion… speaks of exactly how another life is allowed to be taken in… and to affect us deep inside our hearts. It’s about bringing them in toward yourself.

It’s helpful to understand that it is not simply the opposite of seeing someone critically. It is not a matter of being blind to the problems in another person.

Seeing with compassion is about seeing more that simply seeing with critical eyes and souls. Seeing critically and seeing compassionately are not simply opposites but rather a matter of one being more fundamental than the other.

A parent may be deeply critical of their child’s behavior…but they are more defined as a parent than a judge… more given to restore than to condemn.

And this is what we see in Jesus.

Jesus said…

“I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” – John 12:47

Jesus doesn’t summarily dismiss the behavior of others… but he sees more than simply our behavior. He saw they were lost… they had wandered …gone astray… like sheep without a shepherd… leaving themselves harassed and helpless.

He didn’t come to simply pronounce the judgment we face…but to provide the grace, charity, forgiveness, to come home…. and be who they were meant to be.

We have a great example of how Jesus saw someone…and related differently… which we can read an account of in the Gospel narrative of Luke… 19:1-10 Msg.

Zacchaeus

19 1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

This encounter has long been a joy for me to imagine….and it captures how Jesus loved people in an “in your face” provocative and powerful way.

Jesus is once again nearing a city.

It’s the city of Jericho… which was no small town.

It was a town with plenty of merchant activity…and a choice spot for tax collectors.

Rome knew the best way to collect taxes was to employ some local Jews to do the work… which meant finding someone, or several someone’s willing to turn their hearts, souls and their backs on their own people and serve the oppressor.

And even worse…such tax collectors were known to use the opportunity to demand even more than Rome required…and to take for themselves…which made then hated by both their fellow Jews…and the Romans.

You can imagine the depth of hate the people felt towards one of their own both betraying his own people in service to the oppressor…and likewise, audaciously, cheating his own people out of sheer unadulterated greed.

A tax collector was the very definition of a moral outcast… the lost cause.

In fact, Jews of this time often use the phrase sinners and tax collectors… suggesting that the hated tax collectors were seen as a class of their own.

Jesus sees him… calls to him… invites himself over… and it becomes a complete reset for Zacchaeus.

In the end… a man came down from the tree in which he was hiding in shame.

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus?

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus… with compassion?

…. that allows us to model Jesus’ example and be “safe” and approachable?

The first thing we can learn from Jesus …is to….

1. Slow down… and maintain a margin for grace.

There’s a lot of people in this scene… and Jesus is just reaching his destination… so we can imagine for ourselves observing a biblical scene in which it’s time to first prioritize getting through the crowds and get a meal and some rest.

It’s the type of moment we only just want to get to what we immediately need.

But Jesus lived in what some call the pace of grace.

He never moved faster than the speed of love… and love requires slowing down.

We see how Jesus slowed down.

How slow?

Long enough to really see people.

How many of us know all too well that our professed busyness competes with how well we stop and care for others. We need to maintain a margin for grace.

As Carey Nieuwhof recently expressed, 

“You are …the most kind when you have the most margin.”

Many of us have probably felt the challenge of being so rushed we are not really present amidst various exchanges we may go through.

We have a sense of the challenge to maintain a margin for grace.

Despite those pushing him through, Jesus was able to stop and look up …and see him…and though on his way… he used the rhythm of a meal… a break for lunch.

Amidst sharing such a meal with “Zacchaeus”… there is the ability to listen to your heart and soul…not just your head. The Holy Spirit is able to help us see.

Our head might raise walls of busyness and fear and judgment…but if we slow down… the Holy Spirit will intercede and allow compassion…. space for another.

What we first see… is the outward… and we make a thousand calculations to help manage life … it’s easier for our minds to simply create categories …… and then associate them unconsciously… with clothing… context… behavior… social status… moral nature…all in about a grand total of less than one second.

That is what labels serve… like “tax collector.”

Everyone knew how to see a tax collector.

And the shameful truth is that most of us have similar ways of seeing those who we “categorize” as homeless…old… young…healthy or disabled or handicapped.

If we hope to connect with our neighbors as Jesus connected with his neighbors … then it means we will have to 1000% slow down to actually see the individual.

Jesus didn’t lose sense about his destination… but he also didn’t stop seeing people through the eyes of God alone, as being His children, along the way.

Slowing down to become available… means becoming both physically and emotionally available.

We all know that it’s possible to be physically and spiritually close to, with, someone and yet not really giving much thought to paying attention to them.

Try to talk to someone who’s engaged with their smartphone or TV… you really don’t have their full attention.

How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name anyway? We can only imagine.

But at the center… a man is seen.

But at the center … a Child of God is seen!

We live amidst how many 100’s of millions of people… of our neighbors, and there are so many millions more who will just wish someone could see them.

And I would venture to say

… there is a part of every one of us…that may not feel seen.

Here’s a question that can be hard for us to ask of ourselves … but so healthy.

Would the people who know you best say you’re largely available or distracted?

See others beneath the outward behavior… to the soul that bears God’s image.

Without anything else within our sights…we (shamefully?) tend to see people’s outward appearance and behavior…in relationship to how that does or doesn’t serve our own shamefully, embarrassingly fragile, sense of our self-esteem.

How easily we tend to see people outwardly.

We can tend to see people as merely annoying …as those with needs which should be avoided.

We tend to see people as potential sources of “micro-aggression” “triggering.”

We tend to see people as an “offensive” threat to our own fragile sense of value.

We can tend to see people as reflecting some radical element which we can rush in headlong and headstrong to judge … as a means to feel a sense of superiority.

Fortunately for us, our Living Savior Jesus saw infinitely more than “just a tax collector.” He saw through the eyes of His Father, a sheep without a shepherd.

He did not go to the home of a tax collector…. he was not just relating to a tax collector…but to one who was created by God, to be and live as a God’s child.

This is where Jesus confronts our religious nature.

By that I mean our (shamefully?) human ways of trying to be “religious.”

“Religion” sees people as the enemy…and rushes to condemn them as sinners. Jesus sees sin as the enemy…and wants to reclaim all God’s Children by grace.

How easily Jesus could have joined the common way of seeing Zacchaeus… as a betrayer… a traitor… labels that speak of what he does… as if it is who he is.

But Jesus intentionally looked and saw beneath the behavior that had come to define people’s lives…he saw then with great compassion and understanding.

What great compassion and even greater understanding? He never excused what they did by speaking of them as simply victims of someone’s else will…but he also understood they had given themselves to a system of destruction…and that they could choose to turn back…and through him… be reclaimed, restored.

That is what Zacchaeus appears to have found in Jesus.

Jesus saw what was beneath the grime of their sin and our own.

Jesus said … “Stop judging by mere appearances…” – John 7:21, 24

How can we learn to see people, like Jesus did, with only the grace of God… to see beyond and through what may elicit judgment… and develop compassion?

Many might presume that Jesus was failing the way of righteousness.

Many only chose to see that Zacchaeus was “only” a tax collector… living in a life of sin…and he needed to feel the shame of the community to help provide a clear message. In their minds, “What didn’t Jesus understand about that?”

As best as I can understand in this moment… Jesus wouldn’t have dismissed the obvious association of him being a sinner….and even of Zacchaeus being faced with the consequences of that decision …. but Jesus bore the power to see more.

Zacchaeus as “only just a sinner” was not his first nature… his original existence… not what he most fundamentally was created to be… nor what should be accepted as the most basic truth, fundamental claim over his life.

What Jesus saw were lives created to live in the love and will of the Father.

Psalm 139:13-16The Message

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

Sin was no one’s original nature… it was by nature a sheep gone astray… and making the decision to repent was to turn around back to the arms of God.

Savior Jesus doesn’t see people simply as sinners in the sense that sin is simply a behavior… seeking behavior modification. Sin is about identity… about what we ourselves are choosing to self-identify with and then choose to react upon.

We can (shamefully) (embarrassingly) tend to simply judge people only as good or only as bad… then rush in, condemn them to a state of value or lack of value.

Compassion sees the tragedy of sheep that have gone stray… needing to be found and led back. Jesus didn’t focus on the symptoms but rather of the cure.

The Love and Charity and forgiveness of Jesus represents the Father’s love for each and every single one of His children that have not come home. (John 10:16)

God is set on reclaiming lives, not rushing in headlong and headstrong to, like man is shamefully, embarrassingly apt to do – to condemn them. (John 8:1-11)

What the crowds could not see…and Praise God, what Jesus did…is that God was not even close to finished with Zacchaeus. And He is not finished with any of us.

If we are to build better relationships…we need to learn to see people like God does…and to treat them with compassion. This means we need to see what lies beneath and beyond how we may appear…and sees the sacred value of every life.

PART 2 – TOMORROW ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father God, you created our life, you gave the sacrifice, Jesus set the example, and you’ve given me your Word to light my path. Help me to imitate you with everything I do. Help my heart to be as forgiving, my words to be as loving, and my thoughts to be just as pure. Go with me as I follow your commands with the faith of a child – Your child. In your Son’s name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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One Reality of the Gospel Life: How to Be Selfless: An In-Depth Guide for us Selfish People. Galatians 3:6-8 Msg.

“You reap what you sow!”

May­be, you have heard this saying before. Parents, teachers, and others use it a lot. It comes from this passage written by the apostle Paul: “A man reaps what he sows”—and Paul himself drew it from other ancient wisdom (see Proverbs 22:8Hosea 10:12-13). Life’s circumstances too often prove the warning true.

Sow vast fields of Selfishness – Reap even greater harvests of Selfishness.

Matthew 9:35-38 Message:

35-38 Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Jesus sowed seeds of selflessness in his enormously compassionate response to the complex multitudinous needs of the people he had encountered throughout his circuit in the marketplaces and meeting places in these towns and villages.

He automatically gave to the people everything he had – he held nothing back from them in teaching them, reporting kingdom news to them, healing them of “their diseased bodies, healing them of their broken, bruised and hurt lives. So utterly confused and aimless they were, like sheep without their Shepherd.”

Next, Jesus sets up His disciples to gauge their responses to what they have just witnessed as Jesus, without even thinking twice about it, gave them everything.

“What a huge harvest!” He said to His disciples (and anyone else within hearing distance of Jesus’ words) “How few workers!” “On your knees! Pray for more harvest hands!” Can you just guess right here that Jesus was testing the reality of the quality of each disciple’s (and ours today) hearts and souls for service?

Can you see the Word of God sowing the seeds of a conflict here within these men? The of conflict within their hearts, souls and spirits of choosing between choosing between living almost exclusively for themselves with occasional circuits, and forays into the towns, villages, neighborhoods where help was desperately needed? Sowing the seeds of the Gospel wherever the ground was.

Jesus gave quite literally everything he had. The Disciples could only give of their limited selves, reluctantly of their meager and limited resources of what they believed they possessed – limited time, and time limited commitments.

Our great hope, Paul writes in Colossians, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Remember, Jesus was called Immanuel (“God with us”—see Isaiah 7:14; and Matthew 1:23). And eventually the Holy Spirit came to live in the hearts of all believers (Acts 2). This means God is ­sewing, recreating his image within us.

This calls for our cooperation. As the farmer must sow seeds, pull weeds, and fertilize and water his plantings to reap a harvest, so we must cooperate with the Spirit to grow the good fruit of Christlike living. Sowing to please the Spirit means our work is done out of love for God and our neighbors (Mark 12:30-31), love for one another (John 13:34-35), and even love for our enemies (Luke 6:35).

The Holy Spirit’s guarding, guiding, inspiring, sowing, sewing and weaving and working within us bears fruit that ­pleases God. We just need to learn how to sow and tend his crops. Spiritual self discipline practiced every day will grow a great harvest of good in us that will please our Lord. Are you ready to sow with God?

Galatians 6:7-8The Message

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God! —harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians: Our Selfishness destroys relationships!

It is the number one cause of conflict, arguments, divorce, and even war.

James 4:1 -3 Message says,

Get Serious

1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

Every trouble starts because …..

“we are spoiled children of our self-centeredness.”

“We want what we want, when we want it, we want it all exactly right now!”

How very easy is it for our selfishness to subtly creep into our relationships?

How easy is it for our selfishness to suddenly thrust itself into relationships?

When you start a relationship, you work really hard at being unselfish.

But as time goes on, selfishness begins to creep in. We put more energy into building relationships than maintaining them.

If selfishness destroys relationships, then it is selflessness that makes them grow. What does selflessness mean? It means less of “me” and more of “you.”

It means thinking of others before you think of yourself and putting the other person’s needs before your own (Philippians 2:4).

Philippians 2:1-4 The Message

He Took on the Status of a Slave

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Selfishness brings out the worst in us.

Selflessness brings out the best in others.

It edifies, it builds faith and hope, trust and love in relationships.

In fact, if you start acting selfless in a relationship, it forces the other person to change, because you are no longer the same person anymore, and they have to learn how to adapt themselves to it and learn to relate to you in different way.

I worked many years serving the multitudinous needs of homeless veterans.

I’ve actually witnessed it many times — some of the most unlovable of people nobody in their “right and selfish minds” wants to be around, are transformed when someone exhibits both subtle and sudden and genuine kind and selfless behaviors toward them and gives them what they need, not what they deserve.

How to Be Selfless: An In-Depth Guide for Selfish People

When I think of selflessness, I can’t help but think of my parents’ example.

My father worked hard to support my family financially and never missed a day of work. My mom was a Registered Nurse for well over 40 years, she was always there for the hospitalized patients under her care. She was available to talk and support my sisters and I through our most insecure and awkward years of life.

Together, she and my dad strived to love us and be there in every high and low.

As you read this, I hope and fervently pray you too can likewise remember those in your life who have shown you this kind of selfless love, whether it be a family member, a friend, a mentor, or some stranger who simply decided to take a few moments to care for you. These moments, and these relationships, are ones that get etched in our memories; they are powerful and impactful in our lives. 

While we know this to be true, and may desire to be selfless ourselves, it can be easy likewise to draw a line in the sand that we are unwilling or afraid to cross. 

Luckily God knows this about us and has given us great examples in the Bible to teach us how to be selfless.

We will look briefly, specifically at the example of Jesus as he provides a guide for us on how to be less selfish. In this, Jesus will provide for us a total of 9 tips for how we can selflessly follow, model the example of Jesus in our own lives.

Be inviting

Being inviting means acknowledging the sacred worth of all, welcoming, validating, and including others in our life, heart, and friendship.

It is not always convenient, but it is a powerful display of selflessness that can have a profound impact on those around us.

Jesus shows us this through his example below.

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Mark 10:46-52 NIV

Jesus was not afraid to stop what he was doing (potentially inconveniencing himself) to selflessly invite others into a connection and relationship with him.

Nor was he afraid at all to be different from the crowd.

Jesus had an unconditionally compassionate and loving heart to be inviting.

While others around Bartimaeus just wanted him to go back to his customary roadside stand and stand down and be quiet, Jesus had reacted very differently.

He did not tell Bartimaeus to be quiet.

He did not tell him to return to where he came from and stop shouting.

He did not communicate that Bartimaeus was not good enough or that he was behaving wrong.

Jesus was inviting. He was interested. He was giving. He saw past Bartimaeus’s behavior into his heart. He asked Bartimaeus: “What can I do for you?”

Be admitting

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

In this narrative passage, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on, own, and weigh the wrongs in our heart before pointing out the “specks” in others.

This is a critical and an essential element of selflessness: to care more about how we are impacting another person than how they are impacting us.

Admitting our own mistakes, sins, and weaknesses is actually a very important part of loving other people.

When we confess ourselves to God, admit the truth about ourselves, we not only protect ourselves from being self-righteous and critical of other people, but we also can more adequately heal those around us of the “specks” in their heart.

Instead of, rather than be motivated by self-protection, self-righteousness, or self-interest, or survival of the strongest and the fittest and the richest, we can serve, help others because of the care we have for those God has put in our lives.

Be forgiving

Once we confess ourselves unto God and admit to those places where we need His mercy, we are way far better able to forgive others for their shortcomings.

Being forgiving is a form of giving charity to others; it is a way of our selflessly clearing a debt in a relationship. Forgiveness is not something that can be faked but must be arrived at genuinely and honestly. (Isaiah 1:16-20 The Message)

There are times in marriage and relationships where I am convinced others have wronged me. I feel that I won’t be satisfied until the injustice is pointed out and thoroughly and rigorously and vigorously and selfishly dealt with.

This mindset only drags things out, heightens the emotions between me and my friends, and certainly doesn’t help us to resolve our arguments or feel close.

God teaches me, and I fervently pray He teaches you, that when we can admit our own faults, we will be more able to forgive, show mercy, and feel blessed.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7 NIV

Matthew 5:7 Amplified: “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

God values and appreciates when we show mercy to those around us.

Mercy is something near and dear to God.

He decided to display his love to us through showing us mercy (Romans 5:8)

Since this is the way God loves us, we can model this love. We can love others in the same way, through showing them mercy and forgiveness the way Jesus did. 

Be available

A critically important part of modelling selflessness like Jesus, is our decision to acknowledge, value another enough to be available and to be interested in them.

Modelling Christ-like availability communicates that we value another greater than ourselves. It is our act of self-sacrifice and selflessness that places oneself aside to like Christ, to listen to, consider, feel for, and understand someone else.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’

John 5:2-3,5-6 NIV

Jesus often displayed his availability to others around him in a way that was shocking and ground-breaking. He unhesitatingly noticed people that others went out their way and ignored. He would touch people who were cast out.

In this passage, he interacted with and listened to the needs of a man who was paralyzed (and had no other friends – John 5:7). Jesus didn’t just speak to him but also took an interest in and helped him. Jesus was selfless in his availability to without hesitation, acknowledge to feel, talk, work with those around him. 

Be serving

Being serving is a great way to give selflessly in humility.

It is a critically essential way to prioritize those around us, acknowledging, dedicating our thoughts and emotions to the needs and desires of others.

And as Jesus shows us, if we have any power or authority in a relationship, we should use this position to serve.

Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called “friends of the people.” But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.’

Luke 22:25-27 NLT

Here, Jesus teaches us to not concern ourselves with our position, status, or performance. What matters is deciding to concern ourselves with serving the needs and desires of others. This is what it truly means to be a real friend. 

Selfless friendship is the best kind of friendship because it is not predicated on getting our needs met but acting independently of how the other person treats us. When we love and give to others, our fulfillment comes from modelling and experiencing, knowing that serving is pleasing in God’s eyes. (Proverbs 27:17)

Here are some ideas of ways and means we can choose to be serving today:

  • Ask someone around you if there is anything you can do for them.
  • Prioritize the needs of others as if you feel the need for it yourself.
  • Do chores around the house without someone asking you (my wife likes this one for me – especially when I do the dishes without her telling me twice).
  • Pick up groceries for a friend or neighbor.
  • Drop off a friend’s favorite meal.
  • Volunteer in your community.

Be admiring

Admiring, praising, and encouraging those around us is a way to be selfless.

When we do this, we are able to subtly shift the focus from ourselves (our envy, our malignant competitiveness, or insecurities) and instead focus on admiring and encouraging and inspiring someone else.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names

Philippians 2:3-9 NLT

In this scripture, Jesus’ example teaches me that my value and fulfillment do not come from my status, my success, or how I am seen by others.

Without moans, groans and complaints, Jesus gave up divine privileges, did not try to cling to status of any kind. Instead, he humbled himself, served others. 

When we follow and model Jesus’ example, we won’t focus on the admiration and praise we can earn for ourselves or receive for our own behalf, but we will subtly start looking for ways to share encouragement with others around us.

Jesus lowered himself, so that he could elevate others.

He set an example for us to follow.

In the end God made sure that Jesus knew his value and was himself fulfilled.

To model and practice being “admiring,” think of people you otherwise envy, compete with, or have difficulty loving.

  • Choose to think of ways you admire them (example: what are their strengths or how can you learn from them?)
  • Text them words of encouragement.
  • Think of ways you can make them greater.
  • What do you learn about Jesus’ humility towards God and how did that translate to how he lived while on Earth?
  • Like Jesus did, how can you empty yourself and live to serve and love others?
  • Who is your mentor? That someone you know who is innately selflessly humble that you can admire and learn and model Christ from?

Be empathetic

Empathy is our ability to sense, understand, and imagine what another person is thinking or feeling. It is the ability to put ourselves in the spot of another to prayerfully perceive and understand what they may think, feel, need, or desire.

God and Jesus demonstrate this in the scripture below from Hebrews chapter 4.

When we see and are grateful for the empathy Jesus displays for us, we are able to do the same for others.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

– Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

God and Jesus see our thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. They are able to understand and act in empathy and unconditional love toward us. This empathy produces in us confidence and Shalom as we rely on the graciousness of God. 

In the same way, we can foster peace and confidence in others around us by practicing empathy ourselves.

When we model Christ in this way, we respond with gratitude for the empathy God always has for us, we are free, secure, confident to empathize with others.

This is the ripple effect of empathy. 

  • Pray about God’s love for you and how God and Jesus have empathized with you
  • Pray about a few other people in your life and what they are going through. Ask God to help them with some of the things you think they might need. Praying for others not only helps us empathize with them, it’s also a way to spiritually serve by asking God to enter into their neighborhood and to meet their needs. 

Be initiating

Jesus was a model leader, not just in his words or ability to move a crowd.

What really made Jesus a leader, and even attracted the crowds to him in the first place?

He would be the first to initiate giving to others who could not give back to him. 

He repeatedly asked the beneficiaries of his love to say nothing to anyone else.

Other times he would leave before the person could even find out who he was.

In this way Jesus initiated by giving without expecting any return.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV

Jesus died for us, knowing that many of us would not care and would rather choose to still live self-absorbed lives. But he did it anyway so that we could have the very real choice and very real chance to be free and live a new life.

When we see and believe this personally, it changes us. We become not only willing to live selflessly ourselves, but we desire to. We initiate giving unto others, not in any selfish expectation of any return, but really to thank God.

Try surprising your family, friends or a stranger with a gift, for no reason.

Be persevering

One way to examine the purity of our selflessness is to see whether or not we persevere in love even when it is difficult.

Oftentimes in my marriage, I am amazed and stunned by how it is that my wife continues to extend mercy to me and patiently encourages me along in change, even when I am being ridiculously stubborn, self-consumed, and unchanging.

I know her persevering love is rooted in her appreciation for God’s own persevering love, mercy, and patience in her life.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8 NIV

No matter how often we feel it is not true, the Bible calls us to live as though we are always in debt to those around us in our love.

God loves us enough to pay the price for our sins, if we choose to accept it. We can never adequately repay this debt, but we can continually remember to love one another because of how much we have been loved. (John 3:16-17)

God urges us to not treat his love with contempt, but to respond in gratitude (Romans 2:4), modelling, living our lives as if we still have a debt remaining in our relationships with those family, friends and neighbors who are around us.

This is what it means to persevere in selflessness, even when impossibly hard.

  • Pray about someone you get tired of loving.
  • In the moments that it is difficult to love and reflect on how God loved you.
  • Decide to love those around you out of a love for God, not just based on your feelings toward the person.

We Reap what we Sow ….

We sow selfishness – we reap selfishness

We sow selflessness – we reap God in Christ Jesus in our neighborhoods.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Almighty and Charitable God,

we praise and thank you for making us children of God,

not through our own power and piety

but through our baptism into crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

We turn daily to you,

and in that turning we find peace, courage and purpose.

Make your whole church a witness

to the great good news of Christ’s resurrection.

God, our Savior, hear our prayer.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood: Heavenly Economics. Proverbs 11:24-28.

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
    the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
    those who help others are helped.”

There’s a profound lie in our society today that tells us that if we get more, we will be happier. If we had more friends, we would be happier. If we had a better car, we would be happier. If we got those new shoes everyone else seems to have besides us, we’d be happier. We see it all around us. So many people are wearing themselves out pursuing “things” in a vain effort to make themselves happier.

About those two quotes above, (Actually from Proverbs 11:24-25 Message) God gives us a different perspective here in those verses. Basically, He’s saying that if we are primarily focused on serving only ourselves and keeping us happy and getting more “things” for ourselves that our world will be indescribably small.

When your focus is on yourself, your world will be small. And the reality is, the more you focus on yourself the unhappier you will be. God wants to use you. He wants to do big things through you and use you to bless the people around you.

However, in a worldly economic sense, if your main focus is on yourself, your world will be indescribably, impossibly, intolerably small.

Instead, in a heavenly economic sense, if you choose to invest your time in the people around you, in your “economic sphere of influence,” focusing on others, meeting the needs of those around you, you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll be more fulfilled, more heavenly rich and more earthly and worldly poor. You will know you are blessed being used by God to help those around you in a big way.

Proverbs 11:24-28 Amplified Bible

24 
There is the one who [generously] scatters [abroad], and yet increases all the more;
And there is the one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want and poverty.
25 
The generous man [is a source of blessing and] shall be prosperous and enriched,
And he who waters will himself be watered [reaping the generosity he has sown].
26 
The people curse him who holds back grain [when the public needs it],
But a blessing [from God and man] is upon the head of him who sells it.
27 
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor and grace,
But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
28 
He who leans on and trusts in and is confident in his riches will fall,
But the righteous [who trust in God’s provision] will flourish like a green leaf.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

In the mindset of this world, our economics is often about quickly making the greatest profit at the expense of others. It is based mainly on selfish greed and an unwholesome “me first, you last” attitude. Though it is sometimes called “the pursuit of happiness,” it will never satisfy our deepest needs and longings.

However, are we also aware that there is also something we might choose to call “heavenly economics.” It gives free rein to investing in generosity, in love, and in goodwill. It turns the selfish, vicious cycle of greed upon its head, and flashes of heavenly sunshine beam through, showers upon showers of blessings on us.

We can hear clear echoes of contrast between worldly economics and heavenly economics from deep within our ancient text from Proverbs 11:24-28 today.

In a Heavenly economic system, Generous people forgive debts, as they have been forgiven, ripples of love and service spread outward. That’s an example of God’s amazing grace amid worldly economics, building up treasure in heaven.

Maybe you have seen the old movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

It’s a story about George Bailey, whose savings and loan business lends out money at low interest so that low-income people can buy a home. But then something goes wrong: one day George’s uncle loses track of a bundle of money on the way to the bank, and that puts George in danger of going bankrupt.

In the end, George is rescued by the townspeople, who give him all the cash he needs because he always served from the heart and treated them with goodwill.

God’s Gospel in a nutshell:

Jesus’ Selfless Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood!

Matthew 27:38-44Amplified Bible

38 At the same time two robbers were crucified with Jesus, one on the right and one on the left. 39 Those who passed by were hurling abuse at Him and jeering at Him, wagging their heads [in scorn and ridicule], 40 and they said [tauntingly], “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself [from death]! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, 42 “He saved others [from death]; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him and acknowledge Him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him also began to insult Him in the same way.

They gathered by the hundreds, if not the thousands, watched Jesus dying on the cross. They could see Him suffering but could not understand His actions.

They expected that He would want to do anything to escape the pain and agony.

These observers assumed that Jesus was exactly like other people.

Like themselves.

Only interested in His own personal pleasures and well-being.

That, if He could, if he wanted what everybody else would want – long life, He would have freed himself, escaped the cross, saved Himself from certain death.

To them, the fact that He hung on a cross proved that He was an utter fraud and failure, precisely because, from their perspective, He would not save Himself.

How wrong they were!

He could have saved Himself. Before going to the cross, He had asked the Father to “remove this cup from Me” (knowing that all things were possible for Him). But, in the end, He knew that the cross was the Father’s will (Mark 14:35-36).

So, hanging there, totally vulnerable, in indescribable agony, dying, Jesus was demonstrating why He came to earth. He was showing us that He was totally selfless, willing to obey the Father, regardless of the consequences or cost.

He was not the least bit motivated by self-interest, pride, or self-preservation. He came to give UP His life, not to save it. To serve, not to be served. To die.

He achieved victory and success because for the JOY which was before Him, He freely died for each of us that we might be forgiven of our sins. He represented something totally new, totally heavenly:

Total absolute selflessness, total absolute sacrifice and total absolute service.

Completely, utterly seeking first, the Kingdom of God, quite literally, quite graphically, even to the point of death – only to be raised, to be resurrected!

His accusers represented the opposite:

Pure self-interest.

By their “economic” standards, He could only be successful by saving Himself.

In that exact moment, their “utter selfishness” was all they could understand.

In the world today, many are like those accusers.

Living for self.

Surviving for self.

Self – Preservation

Survival of the “strongest and the fittest, the quickest and the richest.”

Focusing nearly exclusively on their personal economic interests and pleasures.

But God calls us to be like Jesus.

Heavenly Economics – To surrender our lives to Him.

Selfless Servanthood – To die to self and serve Him in His neighborhood.

The Gospel in a Nutshell – Selfless Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood!

Totally committed to entering into our communities and our neighborhoods.

Heavenly Economics: Let our selfless servanthood follow God’s leading and live with His generosity and goodwill.

Our Worldly Economic view: our greed and selfishness can only lead to our ruin.

God is a giving and generous God.

He longs for his children to be like him in this grace.

Our place on earth is not to fill our barns and our silos with our grain, be hoarders or collectors of blessing, forgiveness, wealth, and opportunity.

No, following the lead of our Eternal Father, we are to be conduits of blessing, forgiveness, wealth, and opportunity.

As we are generous like our Heavenly Father God, we trust that he will in turn make sure we are heavenly blessed and refreshed in the ways that will draw us more and more into HIS character and more able to help others in the future.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Holy God, I thank you for all the great examples of heavenly generosity which have blessed and graced my life. Whether rich or poor, these conduits of your grace have taught me that I, too, can be .01% more like you in this way. Bless my heart with trust and faith as I seek to be more generous with others in my grace, forgiveness, finances, encouragement, and time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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The Gospel of our GOD in a Nutshell. Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood.

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists among us the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

I recently searched the Internet for the most selfless people in history. As I looked through online discussions, I discovered a lot of people consider Saint Mother Teresa, Saint John Paul II, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Mahatma Ghandi, Oskar Schindler as excellent examples of selflessness. Each of them received little reward in spite of making tremendous contributions.

Christ’s kingdom calls us to a life of modelling selflessness. Jesus told his disciples that anyone who would follow him would have to be willing to set aside their own ideas of satisfaction in order to follow the way of the cross.

Do we take the time to search our own souls to appreciate what that means?

What is the true meaning of selflessness?

Devoted to others’ welfare or interests and not one’s own; unselfish; altruistic. Showing or prompted by unselfishness or altruism; self-sacrificing. a selfless act. Concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Luke 1:26-38Amplified Bible

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin [a]betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly perplexed at what he said and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin and have no intimacy with any man?” 35 Then the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “[b]Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” ― St. Francis of Assisi

Selflessness brings out the best in others.

It builds relationships.

What does it mean to be selfless?

It means you think a little less of yourself and a little more of others.

The opposite of selflessness is selfishness.

It’s the number one cause of conflict and arguments.

The Bible says, 

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” (James 4:1-2 NIV).

Self-centeredness destroys relationships.

The problem is, being selfish is human nature.

We naturally think about our interests, our hurts, how we look, and how we feel.

Even culture tells us:

“Do what you think is best for you.” But the Bible says, “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own” (Philippians 2:4 GNT).

What happens when you and I

“only look out for one another’s interests, not just exclusively for your own”?

Not only will it transform the moment – but it will also transform you and me!

Not only will it transform our relationships—it will transform people.

Not only will it transform people – but it will transform neighborhoods.

Not only will it transform neighborhoods – but it will transform communities.

Not only will it transform communities – but it’ll transform cities and beyond.

It causes the other person to change because you are not the same person anymore, allowing them to relate to you and me in a radically different way.

I’ve seen it many times: When you treat cranky, unlikable people with kindness, instead of treating them the way they deserve, they transform into nice people.

The greatest lesson in life is learning to how and why we ought to be unselfish—but it won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take the rest of your life.

The good news is, God doesn’t leave you all alone to learn how to be selfless. Romans 8:26 says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness” (NLT).

To live life selflessly in the service of others is noble.

Never stop making the effort to be more selfless.

God’s Spirit is with you and me to help us break free of the destructive cycle of selfishness! And it’s then will you see transformation in all your relationships.

God’s neighborhood calls us to a life of selflessness.

Rabbi Jesus frequently told his disciples that anyone who would follow him into His Father’s neighborhood to serve their neighbors would have to be willing to set aside their own ideas of satisfaction in order to follow the way of the cross.

Mary demonstrated this kind of unconditional self-sacrifice when she was told she had found “true favor with God” and would be the mother of the Messiah.

She seemed to immediately understand that this path would bring her trouble and heartache, but when the angel reassured her that God was using her to be part of his divine plan, she submitted, saying that she was the Lord’s servant.

To be saved by Christ includes an unmistakable call to serve beyond oneself.

Christ’s model of unconditional selflessness in becoming human, suffering the indescribable indignity of unconditionally loving, living in a sinful world, and joyously submitting to death on a cross for our sake, for his enemy’s sake, was not intended to give us a life of personal leisure without concern for others.

Our lives exclusively in Christ has an unsearchable meaning that goes echelons beyond our exclusive personal benefit as we seek to be part of his greater plan.

  • Think about God’s Neighborhood. Think about a relationship in your life. In what ways do you act with selfish and selfless motives in that relationship?
  • What neighborly selfless act can you do today that is uncharacteristic of you?
  • Has someone ever acted selflessly toward you when you didn’t deserve it? How did it impact you? How did it impact them and too the neighborhood of God?
  • What would you do in life if you lived to model, like Christ, a truly selfless life?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God, my Rock and my Salvation, my Guide and my Guardian, guide me this day according to Your will, help me become a genuine servant of my neighbors. A servant entering your neighborhood, whose life is a worthy example to others.

Give me courage, Father, to claim the spiritual riches that You have promised, and show me Your plan for my life, today and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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