"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with 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 purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."
I had read these verses OVER and OVER and practically had them memorized. The girls of Delta Pi Theta truly wanted to embody this and live this. But it wasn't until about two years into it that something jumped out at me...
"but in humility consider others better than yourselves."
Hold the phone. "...consider others better than yourselves." It suddenly hit me that we weren't supposed to serve people because they were needy, we are supposed to serve people because they are better than us.
Woah. That completely shifted things for me. Driving down the road, I look at that homeless person and say, "He is better than me." I see the troubled teen and say, "She is better than me."
There is a story in the book Irresistible Revolution that I love. [I've read half of this book and it's pretty good. I don't finish books.] I must quote this story to you because it is so powerful:
"I have an old hippie friend who loves Jesus and smokes a lot of weed, and he's always trying to get under my skin and stir up a debate, especially when I have innocent young Christians visiting with me. (The problem is that he knows the Bible better than most of them do.) One day, he said to me, "Jesus never talked to a prostitute." I immediately went on the offensive: "Oh, sure he did," and whipped out my sword of the Spirit and got ready to spar. Then he just calmly looked me in the eye and said, "Listen, Jesus never talked to a prostitute because he didn't see a prostitute. He just saw a child of God he was madly in love with." I lost the debate that night.
When we have new eyes, we can look into the eyes of those we don't even like and see the One we love. We can see God's image in everyone we encounter."
In the summer of '08, when I was on staff with M-Fuge, I would take a group of teenagers out to minister to a group of kids at a trailer park for a week. Each week, I would have a different group of teenagers. The night before our first day on site, I would share with them this verse and this story. I would tell them that these site kids might seem tough but they just needed Jesus. I would challenge them to think of these kids as better than themselves. But I could tell they didn't get it.
Well, the first day on site was always interesting. The site kids wanted to show the teenagers who was boss. There were several instances where 10 year old kids could make 15 year old kids cry. I had campers tell me that they did NOT want to go back the next day. I had people say to me, "How do you do this every day every week?" I remember the first time I was asked that and this just came out of my mouth, "Because I love them. I really do. And it's only through Jesus that I'm able to do that." That wasn't some carefully thought out Jesus answer. That was the truth and that was such a neat thing to experience.
Well, by the end of the week, campers were always crying when we had to leave site for the last time- but for a different reason. They were crying because they didn't want to leave! On Saturday morning before they all went back to their homes, I would share this same verse and this same story again. And each and every time, I saw the light bulbs come on. They got it. The kids that seemed impossible to love, or even like, had invaded their hearts. But all because of Jesus.
Instead of looking at people through the labels that we've placed on them, (rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, popular, weird, Christian, atheist, gay, etc.) let's look at them the way Jesus does. We are not better than they are. They are a child of God and He is madly in love with them. Each and every one of them.