I don’t get to visit a lot of churches because of my responsibilities at our church, but I do enjoy doing so because I learn ways to help us be more effective in our ministry. One of the things I do is to collect various pieces of literature to gain ideas and, most of all, I try to see what it’s like to attend a new church as a guest.
More often than not we are warmly welcomed and made to feel at home. However, there have been some exceptions. I remember one church our family attended (all nine of us) and there were about 600 people there that morning. Not a single person spoke to us. I am not exaggerating. I was stunned at the indifference and lack of interest in guests that they had.
Experiences like that always make me pause and consider our own church. How do strangers feel when they walk in our doors? Even when they are greeted do they sense a genuineness and kindness in our folks?
The worst church in the New Testament was the church at Corinth. Not only to guests, but to those that regularly attended it was a selfish, unloving place. The congregation was competing for attention rather than attending to the needs of each other. God corrected them by telling them that they “should have the same care one for another” (I Corinthians 12:25).
The words “same care” mean that we should care for each person as much as we do for ourselves, in the same way. The word “care” means to “take careful thought” and has the idea of being preoccupied with a need that is present.
This is what genuine love does. Love is not selfish, focusing on personal needs and wants, but focused on the needs of others. This is why the Bible states that love “seeketh not her own” (I Corinthians 13:5).
When we love someone we think about them – a lot – and how we can meet their needs. The deeper your love, the more you think about how you can serve that person. Love motivates us to focus on meeting needs.
The Bible says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 2:4-5) The mind of Christ was one that was oriented toward helping and serving others. This way of thinking was not haphazard, but with purpose.
The word “look” in Philippians 2:4 means “to spy on”. It has the idea of looking intentionally and carefully at a specific place or person. We are exhorted to “look…on the things of others”.
Most of us are concerned with our own interests, comfort, and where we are in the pecking order. Jesus warned us against seeking the most visible places in order to be recognized and honored, but to rather seek a place of humility that He might honor us in due time (Luke 14:7-11). This goes against the grain of what we are taught and our own desires. All of us have a selfish nature that wants the best seat, the largest portion of dessert, the most recognition – and it can consume our thoughts.
Our desires are to have others honor and recognize us rather than our doing the same for them. When we love people we meet their needs and honor them as we serve them. The Bible says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another”. (Romans 12:10)
The word “honour” means “to highly value and count as very precious”. The word “preferring” means “to show deference, to prefer others ahead of one’s self”.
Rather than seeking honor, let’s honor others through serving them in practical ways. This requires a focus on the needs of others rather than constantly thinking about our own needs.
Just because a person is a believer doesn’t mean they will have a focus on others’ needs. The Bible speaks of dying to self and our ambitions. It isn’t something we do, but something that has already been done when Christ died for us (Romans 6:1-13). By faith we rest upon this fact and allow Christ’s life (which includes being servant-oriented) to live through us.
Some make this another legalistic work, “I’ll just have to die to self over that aggravation or irritation”. It isn’t something you do, but that has been done and that you rest upon by faith. Usually there is no “death to self” at all, just a lot of resentment over what you don’t have or how someone is hurting you. It becomes a manifestation of “self” through our words, attitudes, and non-verbal language.
Have you ever allowed God to love people through you? Does He prompt you to put their needs ahead of yours, to allow them to go first and you take the last place? He will if you will listen to Him and focus on others.
One of the many good things my Mom did for me was to take me to hear good preaching when I was a teenager. She would make a big deal out of it and my friends would tag along and after hearing some good messages we would go out to eat and then go home.
My life was changed during one of these times. In February, 1975 we drove over 100 miles to hear one of my favorite preachers. His message that night was a single word, “Others”. I had never heard anything like that before. He challenged us to think about others and to serve others, using our Lord’s life as a pattern.
After the service was over we got in the car to go for a meal, but my mind wasn’t on food. In fact, I was oblivious to the conversation in the car. My heart had been deeply touched by the message and it was a signal event in my life, even more dramatic than when I was converted as a nine year old boy.
That night I decided I would live a life focused on serving others and looking for needs people had and do what I could to meet them. The preacher quoted a poem by Charles Meigs that I memorized and it has become a motto of sorts for my life.
Lord help me live from day to day
in such a self-forgetful way;
that even when I kneel to pray,
my prayer shall be for others.
Help me in all the work I do
to ever be sincere and true;
and know that all I do for you
must needs be done for others.
Let “self” be crucified and slain
and buried deep; and all in vain
may efforts be to rise again
unless to live for others.
And when my work on earth is done,
and my new work in Heaven’s begun,
may I forget the crown I’ve won
while thinking still of others.
Others, Lord, yes, others;
let this my motto be.
Help me to live for others,
that I may like like Thee.
Love “seeketh not her own” (I Corinthians 13:5). May you live for others today, especially those closest to you, your family.