Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus — Philippians 2:2-5
Today is Valentine’s Day and, of course, our thoughts turn to love. It might seem unusual that I chose to reflect on the passage above rather than the more traditional one from 1 Corinthians 13. There is, however, a good reason.
Over the years, we have seen a number of marriages fail and some of them shocked us. One year Michael and I sat down after hearing about the separation of dear friends and talked for a long time about what the challenges in marriage and relationships in general are and how to overcome them. After much deliberation, we narrowed it down to two primary causes of most relational problems: pride and selfishness.
Pride makes us believe that the only right way is the one we see. Selfishness causes us to believe that the way that seems right to us applies to everyone and everything else as well. These same two principles apply to every single thing in relationships: finances, raising children, intimacy and making plans. Pride tells us that we can because we want to. Selfishness tells us we can and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or how it affects others. In the eyes of a prideful person, their actions are justified as being the only correct ones. But, God warns us against this. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.“ The truth is that there is really only one right way and it isn’t anything we can do on our own. It’s found only in the attitude of Jesus Christ, who willingly sacrificed all and went to the cross to die for our sins.
So, what can we do? I love what Paul writes in this passage in Philippians, because it’s the “recipe” for Christ-like living. Christ-like living allows us to die to that pride and selfishness and put others first. Just look at the basic instructions: be of the same mind (agree with one another), maintain the same love (that Christ has for us), be united in spirit (walking together with the Lord daily) intent on one purpose (keeping our focus on Christ and Christ alone). Oh, if we were solely to live our lives always like that!
What a difference there would be in relationships if we simply followed the Bible’s instructions. Let’s think through a couple of those from Ephesians 5 which has much to say about the marriage relationship. Husbands, did you know you are called to love your wives with the same kind of love God had for us in John 3:16 when He sent His Son to die for us? That’s a pretty tall order. Wives, did you know that you are called to “be subject” to your husbands. That means you respect him and trust in his leadership. That’s a tall order, too. These aren’t easy things to do without God’s help. Remember Philippians 4:13, ”I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
How do we live this out? Listen first to God and then to one another. Respect one another. Be on the same page. Die to self daily, hourly if need be. Forgive one another. And above all, love. Love unconditionally. Love unselfishly. Love willingly. Love sacrificially. Love joyfully. And, if you just can’t love someone, ask God to fill you with His love for that person.
Trust God in your relationships. Allow Him to be the center of your relationships and just see how He works and what He does with them. He will do that much better than we can.