Paul opens the second chapter of Philippians with a message that grates against the grains of humanity. If you need proof that the Christian message is challenging at it’s core for every person on the planet, you can blow the dust off this chapter. Paul squashes our constant pursuit of “more” with bold statements like “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 2:3-4 NIV) Even our beloved American Dream falls short of the Gospel message. And before I get lashings for that statement, remember, The Golden Rule doesn’t even measure up… Paul is not saying treat others how you would like to be treated, he’s saying treat them BETTER than you would like to be treated. This is a radical message calling us out of who we are at our roots. This is a message of change, but unlike other messages of change, this one penetrates deep into our being. It merits mission statements like, “Less of me and more of You” and “It’s not about me” to remind us of who we are called to be.
My friend Phil is a stellar church planter. He and his wife have been pastoring a small community in Rapid City, South Dakota for a few years now. Last summer I asked if he would come and share his vision with a group that I was leading there in the city. Our group was building an arbor at a community center that week. The arbor is a standing structure that forms a gigantic circle. Inside, the Lakota people perform their native dance during gatherings called Pow Wows. So we were a crew of mostly white americans building a structure for Native Americans to come together as a community and celebrate their heritage. It was Phil’s idea. The night he shared his vision with us was powerful. My eyes were opened.
I was there leading a mission team. My mind was focused on lumber runs, water coolers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the logistics of the whole week rested on my shoulders. I was thinking about how inadequate I am to do this job, and how I fail every… single… day. I was reminding myself I’m not a failure, I was the man for the job. God has called me to this work, which I guess is all the validation I need to keep going. In other words, I was distracted by all the thoughts I frequently visit while leading mission trips. Between logistics, and the constant battle to find my place as a leader, I dig myself deeper and deeper into a missional rabbit hole. It takes a guy like Phil to pull my head out of the ground long enough to remember the sunlight above.
His message was simple. He spoke about instilling value into a people that have been devalued by society. More specifically he told us tragic stories of the Lakota Tribe, who have been trampled on by Americans for hundreds of years. The atrocities they have endured at the hands of the United States government is unbearable to hear. Thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered. And it’s not distant history. WHAT? It’s no wonder the Lakota people do not trust us. But Phil and his family are there, living with the people in North Rapid. Laughing with them. Crying with them. His message is this: You are valuable. To me, to this community, and to a God that is greater than any government or any weapon used against you…. You are valuable.
Screw the water coolers! Peanut butter and jelly can wait! I may have forgotten the nails but I remembered the sunlight. Thank God for Phil.
That’s the gospel. Understanding your value, and helping others discover theirs. Phil is burying the American Dream and the Golden Rule next to each other, and resurrecting the words of Paul, “Value others above yourselves”. The world needs more Phils.
What are some ways you can show others their value this week? Would you go out of your way to show someone how important they are to you, or to the community, or to God? Would you share the Gospel, maybe with words, but most importantly with your actions?