Cure for Fear What's the solution to our fear problem?

Is there anything more debilitating than fear?  I don’t think there is.  And, friends, we need to find a cure for fear and fast!

Fear can stop us in our tracks physically, causing us to freeze up like a deer in the headlights.  Fear can cause us to loop into unhelpful cycles of thinking and feeling that keep us from reaching our potentials.  And fear can kill us spiritually by preventing us from fully accepting the love of God.

And perhaps most importantly, fear can prevent us from obeying the Greatest Commandment(s) (to love God and others) and the Great Commission (making disciples) by causing us to discount and judge people before we ever get to know them.

So what’s the answer?  What’s the cure for fear?

The Causes of Fear

Before we can talk about a cure for fear, we have to wrap our minds around the things that cause us fear in the first place.  What’s so scary out there?

A recent blog on Psychology Today’s website highlights the five fears that we all have.  Here they are:

  1. Extinction – This is the fear of death an it’s like a program that runs in the background of our minds.  When we get a little too close to something that could possibly cause us to die, this fear alerts us.  Most of us have a pretty reasonable threshold.  While it’s true that there’s a chance (however small) that germs on a door handle could kill us, most of us don’t run away from door handles kicking and screaming!  Others of us have a much lower threshold for this kind of fear.  We fear almost everything that could potentially harm us, including people (and especially people different than us whom we have a hard time understanding and identifying with).
  2. Mutilation – This is the fear of serious but not deadly bodily harm.  Here’s a great example: when my wife was young, her brother broke his arm while riding his bike.  Since this caused her great fear, she put off learning to ride a bike until she was in her 30s!  This fear of mutilation can immobilize us altogether because there’s always something or someone that could harm us, especially when we are surrounded by places, things, and people that are new and different.
  3. Loss of Autonomy – This fear rests on the natural human desire to be in control.  And the loss of autonomy here could be physical (such as becoming paralyzed) or non-physical (such as being demoted from a position with freedoms at work to one without them).  This fear can cause us to be defensive and very selective about what we do and who we surround ourselves with.  We begin to view everything and everyone as a threat to our freedoms, and more so if we are unfamiliar with them.
  4. Separation – This is the fear that we’ll lose contact with the people and things (but especially people) that we love.  We’re scared that they’ll die and we’ll be left alone.  We’re afraid that they’ll find out our deepest, darkest secrets and hate us for them.  We’re afraid that they’ll find people who are better than us and leave us for them.  This can cause us to try too hard to keep the people and things we love, turning us into Scrooges.  Or, rather sadly, this fear can cause us to prematurely push everyone and everything away so that we are the ones who control the separation and it doesn’t come as a surprise.  And, this fear can cause us to shelter people whom we love from others because we don’t want them to get hurt (which can be especially true with regard to our children and spouses).
  5. Ego-death – Lastly is the fear of shame and humiliation.  This is the fear that who we are on the inside, in the most secret place, will be snuffed out through the bullying of others, our own self doubts and depression, or the guilt and pain that we carry into our present from the past.  We’re scared that we’ll lose who we are, our identity.  Maybe we’ll get subsumed into someone else.  Maybe will get squashed.  Maybe we’ll be found out.  Pick your poison, the result is the same — this fear can cause us to become shells of who we’re meant to be!

And these fears trip us up in any number of ways.  I’ve written about a few of those ways before, so I won’t do so here.  But suffice it to say that fear can really put a hamper on our ability to live well, to be meaningful people to others, and to follow Jesus well in the real world.  We need a cure for fear!

cure for fear

by: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images; accessed at LATimes.com

A Cure for Fear

At his last National Prayer Breakfast, on February 4, 2016, President Barack Obama talked about how damaging fear can be and said this:

Fear does funny things. Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different. Or lead us to try to get some sinister other under control. Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.  [SOURCE]

President Obama, like him or leave him, made a great point here.  Fear can cause us to do things we wouldn’t do otherwise.  Think about the types of fears we listed above.  Each one of them can lead us to hurt ourselves or others.  Each one of them cause us to distance ourselves from the “sinister other,” to quote the President.

The President’s words are self-evident.  All we have to do is look into our own lives and analyze, even briefly, some of the choices we’ve made.  Many times those choices have been heavily influenced by fear and as a result we and others were likely hurt.

And this need for a cure for fear is evident in our public discourse as well.  Think back to a little while ago when the Syrian refugee crisis first hit the news.  A little boy drowned as his family tried to escape their war-torn country and all of our hearts were ripped in two.

Then a little while after that fear took over.

Paris was attacked by a terror group and then San Bernadino, CA a short time after that.  The fear that these two terror attacks created made us lose our minds in the United States!  Our broken hearts over the little Syrian boy who drowned became dark with fear-induced hate, causing us to say all sorts of crazy and untrue things about the Syrian refugees.  I mean, just look at some of the comments on this post of mine on Facebook and judge for yourself!  The fearful hate is palpable.

Fear causes us all kinds of problems, including saying and doing hateful things to the very people God may be calling us to be and share the good news with!

We need a cure for fear!

I like how the President ended his quote above: “Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.”  While I agree in principle with him, I will quibble just a bit.  Here’s how I would say it:

Jesus and the ways of Jesus are the best cure for ear. While faith, generally speaking, is a good cure for fear.

What we need now, especially those of us who follow Jesus, is to emulate Jesus and his ways.  If we want a cure for fear, we have it!  It’s called love.  And not the love that we think we should share and to whom we think we should share it.  No!

It’s the love that Jesus had, a love that extended to the most vulnerable and to the privileged.  It’ the love that, as Paul puts it in Philippians 2, always puts the interest of the other before our own.

The cure for fear is Jesus and his ways.  And Jesus and his ways are best encapsulated by one word: LOVE.  1 John 4.18 says this:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Love and fear are like oil and water, they just don’t mix well.

But let’s be honest for a second — we all still have fear and our fears cause us harm and move us to harm others.  This is a continual problem for us all.  Fear is something that will be with us until we shuffle off this mortal coil.

So what do we do?

Well, since we’ll always need the cure for fear, namely love as expressed by Jesus, then we’ll always need to reapply this cure for fear by constantly re-exposing ourselves to Jesus and his gospel.  I talk some more about this need for persistent exposure to the gospel in this the New Wine Podcast #016; give it a listen!

 

What do you think?  How big of a deal is fear?  And what’s the cure for fear?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Gentleness Is Power Under Control A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

By: Corey Leopold
This tiger reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, an epitome of gentleness.

What do you think of when you hear the word “gentleness”?

I tend to think of two things: my dad and servant leadership.

 

What’s so gentle about my dad?  Well, if I’m being honest, my dad doesn’t look like a gentle man.  He’s large and traditionally quite masculine.  He has the kind of strength in his hands that can only come from a lifetime of manual labor.  And my dad is a fiercely protective husband, father, and friend.

But at the same time my dad is utterly kind.  And while he has all the physical strength that many people spend their valuable time and money at the gym trying to obtain, he only ever uses it to provide for his family or to protect those he loves.  My dad is a wonderful example of my working definition of the idea of biblical gentleness: power that is is used under control for the benefit of others.

And this same idea is idealized in the leadership style that has grown in popularity in recent years called “servant leadership.”  There are a number of conceptions of this style of leading others.  Here are a few that stand out in my opinion:

  • Robert Greenleaf, the person who coined the phrase “servant leadership,” says that a servant leader “is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead…the servant-first [efforts] to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served”  (SOURCE).
  • James Hunter, a popular leadership author and business consultant, says “[t]he role of the leader is to identify and meet needs. We’re not here to do what people want—but we are here to do what people need” (SOURCE).
  • The CEO of Popeye’s Chicken, Cheryl Bachelder, says her idea of a leader includes being “courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior performance.  This is a Dare-to-Serve Leader” (Dare to Serve, 3).

So it appears to me that my working definition of biblical gentleness (power that is used under control for the benefit of others) meshes really well with the definitions of servant leadership which are offered by some of the thought leaders on the topic.

And if you’re like me, and I suspect that you are!, then it may be surprising to think that an effective leader needs to be gentle.  I think we generally think of leaders, especially business leaders and managers, as aggressive, selfish, and cold.  But anecdotal evidence, as well as some hard research, seems to point to the effectiveness of servant leadership, that is, gentleness in leadership.

Imitating Jesus’ Gentleness

The Apostle Paul encourages those who are connected to Jesus to imitate him in their attitudes (Philippians 2.5) and one word that defines Jesus very well is “gentle.”  Jesus uses this word of himself in Matthew 11.29: “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

But how do we do this?  As followers of Jesus, how do we develop gentleness in our lives?  Can we try harder, is that the answer?  Well, take the gentleness challenge: for one week try to be more gentle.  Record how it went and share your results with the world!

Here’s how it went for me: I started last Monday.  Things went pretty well for a few hours.  Then my son, Myron, woke up from a nap and cried loudly.  I was working on something important and didn’t really want to stop at that moment to go see what he needed.  So I sighed heavily and tramped upstairs very ungently.

Later that day I was driving home from the store and was behind someone at a red light.  I needed to to turn right and they hadn’t moved all the way over, thus preventing me from being able to turn.  I wanted to yell at them and let them know how stupid and selfish they were, but I resisted — not because I was trying to be gentle, but because my son was in the car with me.

Then later that night I dumped the stress of my day on my wife in a very ungentle way, burdening her with all my drama without taking a minute to think that she may have had a stressful day too.

So I didn’t make it through one day.  I need help to imitate the gentleness of Jesus!

So what’s the solution?

It’s not trying harder, knowing more, or anything else like that.  Nope.  Instead, Paul says in Galatians 5 that being connected to the Spirit is the answer.  As we live in step with the Spirit, the gentleness of Jesus is developed in us.  This is what Paul means when he calls gentleness an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.  Gentleness is one manifestation of a Spirit-synced life.

 

So instead of trying to be more gentle, let’s invest our time and energy toward furthering an intimate connection to the Spirit through worship, Christian community, and serving the mission of Jesus to reconcile all things to himself!  In so doing, God will generate gentleness in us through his Spirit, the same gentleness that Jesus’ demonstrated in his human life!

 

What do you think?  How do you define gentleness?  How can gentleness be developed in us?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Joy Despite Circumstances A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

joy

My favorite shot from Myron’s 7-month photoshoot!

 

Joy Despite Circumstances

The photo above is of my son, Myron.  That shot was taken right in the middle of a crazy day.  He had been fussy just before this photoshoot and he was fussy right after it.  But right there in the middle of all that fussiness, Myron found some joy.

Sure, some of his favorite toys, books, and stuff helped.  But joy was found nonetheless!

To be honest, Myron’s experience of joy sounds an awful lot like mine.  As I’m seeking to live a Spirit-synced way of life, I often find joy wedged right in between hardships.

Right between a letdown at work and a car problem.

Right between bad news about a family member and a plumbing problem.

Right between violence in the neighborhood and burning dinner.

It’s right there that joy is found, the joy that is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.

 

In Every Season of Life

The circumstances that shouldn’t impact our joy from the Spirit are not just limited to one-time events.  No.  We should find joy in all seasons of life, even those seasons that seem long, dry, and difficult.

How do we do this?  Do we try to manufacture joy on our own, putting on a happy face for the world to see?

joy

By: Janelle

No!  When we try to drum up joy on our own, it may look cute for a minute or two, an hour or two, or even a day or two…but eventually people will see that this “joy” is as real as a plastic doll’s smile.

Instead we can only truly experience joy as we walk in step with the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians 5.  That’s where we’ll find joy.

The unending depth of joy that are available in the Spirit is our source of joy, not our will power, discipline, or acting ability!

 

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

So we shouldn’t fake it ’til we make it!  We should trust in the Spirit of God to infuse us with his joy as we walk with him.

Now if there’s anyone who needs to hear this advice, it’s us — Christians!  I bet this scenario sounds familiar to you if you’ve been part of the Church (at least in America!) for a while:

It’s Sunday morning and the time when you need to leave the house to arrive to the worship service more or less on time is rapidly dwindling.  Everyone in the house is harried, frantic, and on-edge.  People are yelling at each other.  There’s a fight over who showers next.  Maybe even an expletive or four are thrown around.

Then you get in the car.  No matter how long your drive is, it’s probably filled with continued stress and anger.  More yelling.  Threats of violence are leveled against the children.  Promises of eternal hate are returned.

Then you arrive in the parking lot that you use when you go to the worship service.  Until the doors to the car are opened, a few more tight-lipped verbal salvos are lobbed at one another.  But everyone is taking care to not look like they’ve just been angry at one another for at least the last ninety minutes!

Then the car doors open.  That’s when the plastic smile from the doll in the picture above is slapped across everyone’s faces.  The family must put on airs, appearing to be happy, loving, and joyful.

And the sad truth: everyone else is doing it too.  Okay, not everyone.  I know there’s a few of you out there who live this Spirit-synced life better than the rest of us!

But it’s truly sad that during our times of Christian community and gathered worship we are most tempted to fake joy or the manufacture it on our own.

It would be better for us to be honest with ourselves, our families, and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  At least that way we could begin to grow and learn.  As long as we’re pretending we don’t need to learn, we’re certainly not going to seek learning out!

So let’s NOT fake it ’til we make it.  Let’s pursue the Spirit, being vulnerable along the way.  Let’s admit our shared humanity and help one another find the joy of the Spirit more and more!

 

Biblical Joy

My favorite place in the New Testament that reflects on joy (to some degree) is the beginning of Philippians 2.  Here it is:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in 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 of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2.1-4)

Paul had a vested interest in the church at Philippi.  He planted the church in Philippi and was falsely imprisoned while doing so (Acts 16.11-40).  And so this church, which initially met in the home of an early female Christian leader named Lydia, had a special place in Paul’s heart.

You can see this in Paul’s words in Philippians 2.  He’s begging them to be unified.  And he says that if they are unified together — being like-minded, having one love, putting aside selfishness and embracing true community — then his joy would be made complete.

He doesn’t say that he won’t have any joy until this happens, just that if the church in Philippi his joy will be complete.  This word, “complete,” can mean “full” or “mature” as well.  It’s almost as if Paul is saying that his joy is like a fine wine, and when the church in Philippi finally gets unified, then his joy will be properly aged and ready to be enjoyed.

But I want to be sure we note a few things here.

  • First, this kind of joy that Paul longs for has its origins in a “common sharing of the Spirit.”  This isn’t a joy that can be manufactured on one’s own.  It comes from the Spirit of God working within and among his people.
  • Second, this kind of joy is communal.  Paul’s joy is deeply connected to the church in Philippi and their joy is connected to Paul and to one another.  Joy isn’t something that is reserved for individuals to enjoy on their own.  It’s born in community (through joint pursuit of the Spirit) and it is best expressed to one another within community.
  • Third, immediately following this passage at the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should have the same mindset that Christ had.  In other words, in order for joy to be made complete, we need to be more and more Christ-like.  In fact, I’m going to make a revolutionary claim here: living a Spirit-synced life is a synonym for following Jesus!  *gasp*  As we pursue the Spirit, he’ll lead us to live like Jesus lived when he was walking around on earth.  And as we seek to imitate Jesus, we can only do so with the aid and help of the Spirit (and one another).
  • Fourth, joy and love are intimately connected.  As we discussed previously, love is a choice which is acted upon to put the interests of others before our own.  In so doing, joy can be made complete.  And as we experience joy (both as a recipient and a conduit), we’ll demonstrate our love for one another more and more!  Paul would talk about this more in Philippians 4, where he says that because of what he has found in Christ and within community, he can have joy, that is, contentment, in all situations and at all times.  I don’t know about you…but that’s what I want!

 

So joy means having a deep and abiding sense of contentment despite what life, circumstances, and others throw at us.  Joy is based on the unchanging nature of the Triune God and not on our moods, our life stages, or our friends and family.  But when we experience joy, it is one of those things that can only truly be enjoyed with others!

 

What do you think?  How do you define joy?  How does pursuing the Spirit help you find it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Love and the Interests of Others A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Love is all you need.  These immortal words from the Beatles have been sung billions of times (and I feel like that number is conservative!).  But is it true; is love all that we need?

Well, on the surface of things it’s obviously not true.  Love is an abstract concept and as such it cannot provide our needs for food, water, shelter, and clothing.

But love can and does provide much of our emotional needs and can, in certain ways and at certain times, provide for our spiritual needs.

So maybe a more correct line would be “Love is a really important thing you need.”  But that just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

What Is Love?

To continue our musical theme, love is, as the Boston famously put it, “more than a feeling.”  I like to think of love as a choice, an intentional action which can lead to a lifestyle and not as a fleeting emotional pull toward someone or something.

But, still, what is it?  We’ve categorized it as an intentional action, a choice…but what is it?

Here’s where the Apostle Paul helps us.  In Philippians 2.3-4 he give us the best definition of love I’ve ever read (though, for full disclosure’s sake, he doesn’t use the word “love” in this passage).

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul’s implication is clear, love is an action that is aimed at the interests of others, not at the interests of the self.  Love is supposed to be others-focused.  It’s supposed to be sacrificial and communal.  It’s supposed to result from humility and not selfishness.

Love is, simply put, placing the interests of others before our own.

Geez, could anything be harder?!?

 

1 Corinthians 13 and Love

Paul gives us lots of information about love in the famous words of 1 Corinthians 13.1-8a.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

I know, I know.  This passage usually conjures up images of mushy wedding services or vow renewals.  And that’s fine.  There are no interests we should put first more often than those of our spouses!

But the chapters surrounding 1 Corinthians 13 make it clear that what Paul means by love here is the love that is shared within the Christian community and that is to be shared and embodied outwardly to the watching world.

But what does Paul actually teach us about love here?  Love is about placing the interests of others before our own.  That’s what he means when he says it’s patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, and not proud.  That’s what he means by saying love doesn’t dishonor others or that it isn’t selfish.

Love being defined as putting the interests of others first is seen in that it’s not easily angered, that it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, and that it delights in truth and not evil.  A love that puts the interests of others first is protective, trusting, hopeful, perseverant, and unfailing.

That’s the kind of love I want to experience from others!  And as I learn to put the interest of others first, that’s the kind of love I’ll show them as well!

 

How to Be More Loving

But here’s the rub: How do we become more loving?  How do we put the interests of others before our own?

Well, there’s lots of sound advice out there.

  • Think carefully about how to love those closest to you.  Consider how they would want to be loved instead of simply loving them the way you want to be loved.
  • Learn from other people who love well.  Read the biographies of people who consistently put the interests of others first, no matter the cost.  Spend more time with your friends who love well.  Consider getting a mentor to help you do a better job of loving others.
  • Just try really hard.  Work hard at putting the interests of others first, even when you don’t want to.
  • Do what Jesus did.  He loved people, so you should too.
  • Pray about it.  Ask God to help you.

 

Love as an Aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit

But since love is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5, maybe we should seek Paul’s advice there.

In Galatians 5.16 Paul says to “walk by the Spirit” and in 5.18 he says be “led by the Spirit.”  These very similar concepts are set in contrast to the notion of succumbing to the desires of the flesh.

But how?  How do we walk by the Spirit?  How can we be led by the Spirit?  How can we not fall prey to the desires of the flesh?

  • Firstly, we must pray.  Prayer should be the start of any pursuit of living a Spirit-synced way of life.  We must ask God to make us aware of the leading of the Spirit.  In my limited experience and based on the advice of people I deeply trust, the more we pray to be led by the Spirit, the more and more we’re likely to notice him showing up in our lives, guiding and directing us.
  • Secondly, we must stop indulging the flesh at every turn.  Maybe one reason why we don’t experience the fullness of the Spirit in our lives is that we’re so distracted by our flesh.  And with regard to this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit — love: putting the interests of others before our own — our flesh desires our own interests at all costs.  Maybe we should learn to take stock every once in a while by taking a deep look at ourselves and our motivations.  Perhaps as we listen less and less to our flesh, then we will hear the Spirit more and more.
  • Thirdly, we should look at the life of Jesus.  Who in the history of the world was more in tune with the Spirit than Jesus?  No one, that’s who!  So as we read about Jesus’ earthly life, we’ll notice him putting the interests of others first.  Then we should go out an imitate him!
  • Fourthly, obedience, obedience, obedience.  One of the hardest things Jesus ever said was this: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14.15).  Thanks for that Jesus!  But he’s right.  Love is demonstrated by actions.  And our love for Jesus should be shown by obeying his commands.  And what were they, what were his commands?  Love God with all we’ve got, love others as ourselves, and make disciples.  Pretty simple to say but pretty difficult to live out!  Oh, and it’s no surprise at all that immediately following John 14.15 is a long discussion by Jesus of the Spirit.  Obeying Jesus and experiencing the Spirit go hand in hand.
  • Fifthly, do this with others.  The Christian life was never intended to be lived in isolation.  (Neither was human life for that matter!)  So why do we try to do things like live a Spirit-synced way of life in our own power?  That’s just setting us up for failure.  Instead, call together your friends who follow Jesus, your small group, your missional community, your Sunday School class, your family, whomever, and commit together to pursue the Spirit together.  Then check in on one another.  Tell stories about how the Spirit is moving you to put the interests of others first.  Hold each other accountable.  Pray for one another.  And, above all, love one another because walking with the Spirit is tough because the pull of the flesh is so strong!

What do you think?  When you think about love as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, what comes to mind?  And how can we stay synced up with the Spirit?  Let me know in the comments below.

Kobe and Laying Down Power in the Church

My wife and I life in Pasadena, CA, which is the first city you come to as you travel east out of north Los Angeles.  We love it here!  And here’s one small reason: if you planned well and had decent traffic, then in the winter in LA you could ski in the morning, go to the beach in the afternoon, and watch a world-class stage production in the evening.  Amazing!

Besides how expensive it is to live here, one of the other things that I don’t like about LA is the constant chatter about the Lakers (the local basketball team, in case you didn’t know).  I love basketball, but I don’t really have a team that I root for.  Over the last few years I’ve grown to love the Clippers (LA’s other team) because they seem like they need a few more fans.  However, I’ve always, more or less, rooted against the Lakers, even before moving here.

Why?  Because I like to see new teams win sometimes!  And the Lakers have won sixteen championships!  In other words, I’m kind of tired of the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to basketball.

It has been brought to my attention today, thanks to local news on the TV and sports-talk radio, that Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ longtime star, has re-signed with the team for two years at a reported rate of 48.5 million US dollars.  That’s a ton of cash, especially when you take into consideration the fact that Kobe hasn’t played at all this season yet due to an achilles heel injury.

The Lakers are really betting it all on Kobe with this deal.  Because they re-signed him at such a large salary, the Lakers will have less money to sign other star players.  In other words, Kobe requires such a large investment, that the Lakers will have less wiggle room under the salary cap to lure any other players to LA.

All of this reminds me of something I heard recently.  Some people from the church my wife and I attend went to Mosaix this year.  Mosaix is a global network of believers, churches, para-church groups, schools, etc. who are attempting to catalyze a “movement toward multiethnic churches in the twenty-first century for the sake of the gospel.”  During a post-conference meeting a woman from our church shared this reflection gleaned from the conference: “Every perspective (white, black, Latino, Asian, etc.) has to give up something in order for us to gain traction toward truly becoming multiethnic.”

To translate that into Matt-ese, she’s saying that if we are really going to be the body of Christ the way that God envisions it (Revelation 7.9), then we all have to lay down whatever power me might have for the benefit of everyone else.  We must stop holding onto whatever power we have (which we tend to use for ourselves and those like us) and start making space for those who are different from us.

I’m going to do something heavy-handed here.  Ready?  This is what Jesus did.  Philippians 2.6-7 says Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  And how does Paul introduce these words in Philippians 2.5?  He says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset of Christ Jesus.”

Ouch.

So, let me get this straight.  I’m supposed to have the same attitude that Jesus had and Jesus gave up his power for the benefit of others.  So that means in my life I’m being called by God to give up my power, my advantages, and my preferences so that others can flourish.

Dang.  That’s hard!

And the situation with Kobe is a reminder of our basic human makeup.  Left to our own devices, the vast majority of us will take as much money as we can get, even if it hurts our team and our chances of ever winning again.  Left to our own devices, we’ll not make space for others, instead will actively and subconsciously exclude people.  Left to our own devices, we’re pretty selfish from top to bottom.

So the missional call is to live like Jesus, emptying ourselves for the benefit of others.  That might mean that we have less control, we have less time, we have less say, we have less money, we have less power, and we have less influence.  But it will mean that we’re obeying the clear call from God in the Bible to put the interests of others before our own.

And that unselfish living is what our culture is hungry for.  That’s what can make us stand out from the crowd.  That’s what can help create in us lives that invite others to come to know this Jesus who changes our lives.  That’s what can help us fulfill the Great Commandment (Matthew 22.37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20).

Let’s do this together!

Do you have any ideas of what laying down our power might look like?  How have you done it?  How have you seen it done?  What were the results?  Share with me in the comments below!