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As Christians we should strive to be interdependent in that we are mutually concerned about one another. This attitude of submission to each other is a key to successful relationships, as we strive to help and support our brothers and sisters.
Paul, writing to the church in Philippi, presents a model for human relationships that is beautiful and practical. "Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from 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" (Philippians 2:2-4, New Revised Standard Version).
Then he describes the perfect example of this giving, serving attitude. "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross" (verses 5-8, NRSV).
Jesus Christ, who before His human birth was part of the Godhead, with unimaginable power and splendor (John 1:1-4, 14), willingly gave that up for our sakes. He "emptied himself" of that glory and magnificence, was born as a physical, mortal human and humbled Himself to the point of enduring a cruel and bloody death so we could ultimately share eternal life in God's family with Him (2 Corinthians 6:18).
For those sanctified-set apart for eternal life through Jesus' sacrifice-He "is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters" (Hebrews 2:11, NRSV). This family relationship is made possible through Christ's courageous surrendering of His own life.
Notice the key to this attitude: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3). This requires that we be willing to submit to one another, showing respect and honor to the other person.
Paul recognized this as a key to successful human relationships. We are to be continually "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21). The same principles of respect, honor and love combine to form a successful marriage relationship (verses 22-28). A successful marriage is based on each party's willingness to submit to the needs and the well-being of the other, rather than seeking his or her own way.
Paul instructed the Philippians, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit..." (Philippians 2:3, NRSV). Those motivated by "selfish ambition" seek things for themselves. In their conceit, they want to be placed above others.
But, as Christ makes plain, that is not how His followers are to be. "... Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).
If we are to rule over or lead others in the way God desires, we must in reality be below them. We must be servants. Like Jesus Christ, we must be willing to care for the rest of the sheep of the flock, giving to them, shepherding, pasturing them-or "pastoring" them, as we derive that term today. These are truly the acts of a Christian life-submission and service to others.
A Christian does not control others, nor is he independent of others. As Christians, we are to be interdependent. We are to depend on one another, being mutually concerned about one another.
This voluntary attitude of submission to one another is a result of our calling, because we want to be in God's Kingdom to help the rest of mankind. This is not a selfish motivation, to be there just for ourselves. It is because we want and are willing to help others be there also.
The Good News magazine (Nov-Dec 1997)