I have noticed a recent trend that seems to be sweeping candy aisles in gas stations across the nation. One that I am not entirely certain how to feel about. Slowly but surely, things that had once been labeled “king-sized” are now being rebranded as “share size.” It has very little impact on how I go about eating it, but it is still something that I find somewhat disconcerting for one reason: if history has shown us anything, it is that people are very, very bad at sharing. From Julius Caesar to the Holy Roman Empire, and Napoleon to the Magna Carta, when people are asked to share with someone else, war is almost certain to follow.
That is part of human nature: greed. We have an inborn desire to cling to things and not give them up until our very lives are at stake and, sometimes, not even then. So while I do not know if we are on the verge of war over sharable candy bars, I do know that as children of God, we are called to live a very different kind of life. A life that always defers to others before ourselves.
So while we internally need to submit our parts to one another, we need to practice that same submission externally: first, to God and, then, to others. Just as Christ sought to be a servant and doormat to all, we to need to follow in His footsteps and allow ourselves to become a footstool for those around us. Not to be pushovers, but to be subservient, putting the desires and needs of those around us above our own, thereby demonstrating the self-denying love of Christ.
That is the characteristic of a godly relationship (whether romantic, platonic, familial, or occupational) two people tripping over themselves to serve and love one another. That is the way to harmony in those relationships, and the greatest witness we can have for the outside world. “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 ESV) Not love as in warm, fuzzy feelings towards everyone, but love as in the conscious decision to show love to everyone, no matter how you feel about them or if they deserve it. Love that acts its way out in submission. The same Greek word for love that is used in that passage is also used in John 14:31, as Jesus explains why He must die to His disciples, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.“That is the level of submission that should come from us when serving others. We should hold nothing back, just as Christ held nothing back for us.
So many people incessantly claim that they would lay down their lives for the ones they love, and maybe that is true. Maybe, you actually would take a bullet for your loved ones. But if you are truly willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, how is it demonstrated in your everyday life—or is it? It is a very rare occasion that demands us to choose in between our lives and the life of someone else, but all too common a one where someone would simply like some quality time with us. With fire in our eyes, we contend that we would do the former, but, without reason, all that fervor evaporates when faced with the latter. Instead, we choose the extra 15 minutes in bed or the hour of late night television. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. But how can we expect to lay down our lives, when we won’t even lay down the tv remote.
Hopefully, that illustration makes it clear that we all have a very long ways to go, but that is what the Christian walk is: realizing how gargantuan the problem we face is and then realizing that our God is a hundred times bigger. His grace is sufficient, and He has promised that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29 NIV) So we need not worry that God will change us to live a life of constant sacrifice to those around us. We need only to pray, to trust, to watch, and to praise as God carries out the transformation He has promised for His children.
With the love and confidence found in Christ,
“Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18-21 NLT