Empty yourself to help others
"Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble." ~Proverbs 17:17 (The Message Bible)
I walked into last Sunday's worship chuckling to myself. One of our newer members — a young mom — had taken her daughter to visit family in New York and before leaving, she'd asked whether somebody might be available to pick them up upon their return to Redmond.
I put the word out to the congregation and sure enough, somebody quickly responded saying they'd be glad to do that, and a bit later a second person offered to help too. Delighted by both responses, I put each of them in contact with the other and asked them to take it from there.
My chuckles came as it turned out that neither of them had picked up the mom and daughter - a third person had done that. My gentle laughter arose from that abundant kindness.
I am always humbled to see folks come alongside each other in all phases of life. I get to witness first-hand that comforting and calming presence as people come alongside each other with simple kindness that works to quiet the stormy chaos.
This is one way we can imitate Jesus Christ and His humility. This is a Biblical concept that has Jesus on the Cross as its exclamation point, where that humility is but a small way we can imitate Christ as we pay particular attention to noting the difference between imitate versus impersonate.
Impersonators work really hard to make us believe they are somebody who they are not.
Imitators though are clearly aware that their goal is to live up to the challenge of being a reflection of the person they look up to.
We look up to all kinds of people who set high standards and we try to be like them; older siblings, admired colleagues and respected friends.
As we look up to Jesus, we look to imitate Him where on the Cross, we see He emptied Himself for our sake.
Dr. William Greenway is a professor of philosophical theology at Austin Presbyterian Seminary who makes the point that: "One does not self-empty by focusing on oneself. One is emptied to the degree one is overcome by the needs, pains, hopes and desires of others. When concern for others takes one utterly beyond self-interest, beyond obsessions with achievement and self-obsession guilt over failures, beyond self, then one receives the comfort of Jesus' resurrection for us that is so overwhelming and unconditional, undeniable and absolute, that it is experienced as unfailing and forever. A yes for us more potent and enduring than any imaginable no."
I'll be the first to admit that big cosmic existential empirical thoughts like this often make for really poor conversation starters. But in the realities of life, when things come up that make you flinch all the way down to the bottom of your soul, lots of people know these times all too well.
And for them to hear our stories about Christ followers who empty themselves as it were as they set aside their plans, send a meal over, drop off a card, rearrange their calendars, loan their vehicles, and yes provide rides — standing by ready to help however and whenever — offers people a glimpse of the love Jesus holds for us.
Loving on others to the extent we don't think twice about it because we've taken ourselves out of the equation, these are among the things that will translate in the world outside our Christian church.
And with people looking at us, then we point them to the Cross. Because what looks like our good work — even something as straightforward as abundant kindness — is really Jesus at work in us.
Mike Wilson is the pastor at Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.
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