Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
The Apostle Paul is writing to followers of Jesus Christ in the Greek town of Philippi. Apparently two Christian sisters, Euodia and Syntyche, had been quarreling. Paul first requests that Euodia and Syntyche “be of the same mind in the Lord.” Paul secondly enlists the help of another leader in the church, Syzygus, to help the two women reach reconciliation. Both women have struggled alongside Paul in the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ so they are in visible and influential positions of leadership. Their disagreement is harming the young community of Christians in Philippi.
Paul responds to the quarreling by teaching the Christians in Philippi-as well as Christians today, how they are to behave. “Do nothing in selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others,” Paul exhorts.
The instructions are quite clear. Followers of Jesus Christ are to live out of love and humility by putting first the interests of others in the community.
This humble, loving way of living is part of what Paul means when he exhorts Euodia, Syntyche, and all of the Christ-followers in Philippi to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Having the same mind as Christ does not necessarily mean that we think alike. Having the mind of Christ means that we love alike. To quote another letter of Paul, “Love is not envious or boastful or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Corinthians 13:4b-5).
Love requires listening- really listening. Consider that the person who is speaking is a precious, unrepeatable soul formed from the dust of the earth and the breath of God. Regard the person as one for whom Jesus died just as Jesus died for you.
Therefore, listen. Exercise some discipline to put down the smart phone or the tablet. Better yet, put your electronic device(s) out of your sight entirely. Make eye contact with the one who is speaking to you. Observe the eyes, the body language, the level of energy. Pay loving attention to the other. Refrain from constructing your own response in your head as the other person is talking. Make sure that you understand what the other is saying before you ever open your mouth.
At first, intentional listening may feel awkward and laborious. Learning to listen is a skill that requires practice, just like learning to play the piano or how to pole-vault. There will be failures and there will be small victories along the way. In time, with practice, and through the grace of God, each one of us can have more fully the mind of Christ, looking not to our own interests, but, to the interests of others.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once preached words very much like those of the Apostle Paul. Wesley said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite.”
May it be so.