In a world and body dominated by self, it is an oddity to think of others. Selfishness is the pampered pet of every person.
To be Christian is to think of others more highly than ourselves, and that ain’t natural! It is the model and command of our Lord, who set aside his glorious nature as the Son of God to take on our fleshly existence as Jesus, because we desperately needed help. He cared more about us than maintaining his position, his honor, and even his life. This week is when Christians pause to consider how much he loved us in this way.
That is the gospel’s call to each believer; to love others ahead of self. Deep down, that burns. It crucifies ourselves in tortuous ways. It is a self-inflicted scourging of what we prefer, to elevate the benefit of others through whatever we can do. And, it pains us.
As a way to help instruct a young believer in how to do the un-natural, and elevate the interests of others, I shared the following 4 points that I learned from a woman named Mary.
If we are to be intentional about out-thinking—about concentrating our attention, planning, and efforts in ways that might benefit others toward what lasts—we need to practice thinking outward, rather than inward.
Step 1: Think of someone else.
Get something, someone, other than self, at the forefront of your attention. Focus on someone along the margins. Avoid dwelling on those who distract your attention from what is righteous, like the powerful, attractive, wealthy, or dishonorable.
Picture them; consider their circumstances. Think of what faces them in life. As God declared, “It is not good that man be alone”, so he created a helper. Think like a helper. Not a manipulator or controller, but a supporter and benefiter. Start by thinking of someone else.
Step 2: Think of what they might need, what interests them, what might honor them. Christians focus on the eternal by offering help along that way. Needs should be considered differently than wants. They should be those things that limit the person, hold them down, are beyond their full control, and can be addressed in a way that remains honorable to God.
Interests of others can help guide our thoughts on how to craft a benefit that they can receive and find relief through. As commanded, believers should give honor where due, so think also of how to honorably lift a person up while upholding truth.
Step 3: Think of something you can do to help that person with that need. Craft an approach that might breathe fresh air. Plan something that can ease pain, lift the downcast, help shoulder part of a burden, or turn their thoughts toward their Savior who can provide complete healing.
Remember, giving a cup of cold water can fill a momentary gap, but it is only godly if is satisfies the purpose of “because he is my disciple”. Filling needs must be intentional in serving Christ and bringing people toward him. Anything else, may be helpful, but not Christian. Believers in Jesus think of others best by elevating them before the throne of God in thought and action.
Step 4: Act for their benefit. Unleash yourself beyond fear and self-interest. Love doesn’t return empty, it repeats the Lord’s glorious words, “It is finished”. Do what you do, for the benefit of others, to the glory of God.
“I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mt 26:13)
Mary thought of Jesus.
Mary considered what he needed, what was of interest to him, and most especially, what might honor someone worthy of such public devotion.
Mary recalled that bottle of perfume that represented all her worldly treasure.
Mary “did what she could” and, before all the shocked crowds, emptied the entire bottle onto Jesus feet, humbled herself with flowing tears, and wiped his feet with her personal glory: her long hair.
One, two, three, four…for the benefit of another. Her out-thinking demonstrates for us the gospel truth of putting others ahead of self.
As we come up this week to remember the Cross, remember also how Mary crucified her self for the benefit of another to the glory of God. Think of how you can take up your cross daily, crucify your self-interests by putting the interest of another ahead of self, and push through the tears as you live the gospel with resurrected power.