Can We Love Others and Not Forgive Them?
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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.
In these verses, Paul tells us what our love for one another looks like in practice. Before we go too much further, we need to consider what this love really is, because it has nothing to do with our emotions or feelings, after all how can an emotion be commanded? The English language lacks the vocabulary to make distinctions between different kinds of love. For example, the love a person has for a spouse is of a different sort than the love they might have for a child, a sibling, their country or for pizza. Greek, on the other hand, has five different words that reflect five different kinds of love, and the one used in all of these verses is the word agape, which is a godly and totally selfless love that puts the other first in all things. It has nothing to do with feelings, but rather involves a conscious decision to put others first.
Notice Paul’s emphasis on “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” This is what our love for others should be like. Going further, he says, “. 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.” Can you see the concepts of selflessness and humility at work here? Our love for one another must be selfless in its nature, because it is the exact opposite of “selfish ambition” and “vain conceit”. Our love for one another needs to be like the love that Jesus showed for us; He is our role model. Paul went on to describe our new attitude in the rest of this passage: Read Philippians 2:5-11 now and note that after He humbled Himself and completed His mission on earth in perfect obedience to the Father, He was rewarded with glory and honor.
As you are no doubt aware, the passage above is one of many that teach us about putting others first, living selfless lives, humility and serving others in the New Testament epistles. Jesus also taught these things often, through direct statements, parables and preaching. Consider these passages that are sometimes misunderstood…
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24-26
Here, Jesus is talking about this same issue. Setting aside our old ways of thinking and our old attitudes, we follow Him as Christians. From the point of view of the world around us, we have “lost” our lives, for we have given up its ways to follow Jesus. Yet, we really haven’t lost much of anything, for we have gained so much more than the world can imagine in its place.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48
Let’s be honest, these verses are entirely counter-intuitive and counter cultural. They certainly do not describe the attitude of our culture, nor do they describe our natural human inclinations, but they do describe what love in action looks like, for they describe a person who is willing to be set free from the desire to be “important” and assertive as this world sees these things. Instead, they describe a person who is willing to humbly serve God by serving others without expecting anything in return which is love in its purest form.