Signposts: Daily Devotions

Tuesday, March 15

Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.
—Philippians 2:4

When Paul wrote this to church members in Philippi, he did not, obviously, have the benefits of psychological insight that we have two thousand years later. He had never heard the expression, "I'm okay; you're okay," and he did not know the ins and outs of Corporate Dynamics. But he did know how people behave in groups, which is what caused him to write to the community in Philippi.

For many years, I had little to do with the writings of the apostle Paul. I was guilty of doing what my good friend Meg says her grandmother told her never to do: I was "down on something I wasn't up on." Now, thanks to teaching Bible lectionary studies for many years, I have grown to appreciate Paul in a way I never had before.

Paul seemed to know instinctively that where there is a community, there is conflict. So he urged community members to put the interest of the group before their own interests. This did NOT mean giving up integrity to fit in, or ducking honest confrontation, but it did mean weighing carefully the good of the whole before causing chaos and schism in order to get one's own way.

I have a friend who taught me what Paul is talking about. As members of the same church, she and I found ourselves diametrically opposed to each other in a volatile divisive issue that was driving deep wedges between people. We both thought we were right; we were both upset and emotional. We tried, and failed, to discuss the issue, and afterwards I had a sense that this could ruin our longstanding friendship. "You know," I said to her, "this is like the Civil War when families broke apart. That could happen to us."

I can still hear her reply. "That will never, ever happen," she said firmly. "I love you and you love me, and that is more important than anything else. Period." We never tried to discuss the issue again, and our friendship is stronger today than before. She lived out Paul's admonition and in the process taught me an invaluable lesson about life—and love.

Give us, O God, the wisdom to live in community with open minds, open hands, and open hearts. And please, God, spare us from the necessity of always being right! Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.