Following Jesus During a Pandemic (Pt. 2)

In the last episode of this podcast, I focused on loving others as ourselves as Jesus commanded by respecting the guidelines given for social distancing during this trying time of working to stop the spread of COVID-19.

I mentioned that because the virus is real, and people are actually dying from it, it is best to take all precautions to keep it from spreading, and that NOT doing so is disobeying Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves and treating others the way we’d want to be treated.

This time I want to focus on a more positive theme of just HOW we can reflect Jesus accurately during this time.

And to do that, I want us to look at Philippians 2:3-7 –

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 your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

The main gist of this passage is that we need to value others ahead of ourselves – just as Jesus did.

Let’s work our way through this passage, and as we do, let me encourage you to memorize at least the first 2 or 3 verses of this, or write them out and put them in a prominent place where you can see them every day.

The first command from this passage is to Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

The news reports of people who hoarded sanitary wipes and tried to sell them at highly inflated prices are examples of selfish ambition during this crisis.

Taking undue advantage of others’ suffering and inconvenience is selfish and should be condemned. Hopefully no one who claims to love and follow Jesus would do such a thing.

Doing something out of vain conceit might go along the lines of disregarding social distancing. You might think you are immune or that you shouldn’t have to abide by the guidelines regarding small gathering, shopping, or whatever – so you just go about your life not caring about it.

The problem is, as I mentioned in the last episode is that this is NOT about YOU – it’s about others, which is what this passage is about, too, right?

So if your attitude is, “I’M not worried because I’m healthy, and this is just a big panic and so I don’t need to be concerned,” well, that’s vain conceit. You might be healthy and never get sick. But you could possibly carry it to someone who WILL get sick. What will you say then?

Do nothing out of selfishness – it’s that simple.

The next command is to value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Whoa! Value others above myself? You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Nope. That’s what it says. Value others above yourself. And put the interests of others ahead of your own.

This is one area where the Christian life is so hard. God is telling us that we need to put the needs of other people first. It’s hard because it goes counter to the selfish natures we all struggle against.

It’s natural to put ourselves ahead of others – otherwise we wouldn’t need to be told to do it, right?

When you’re making decisions about actions taken during a crisis, you need to think through whether those actions are putting the needs of others ahead of your own.

Just a small example: while visiting my daughter’s family in Georgia last month, we had to self-quarantine because it was possible I had been exposed during a short trip I took to visit some historical sites.

During that time, I wanted some pop real bad. That’s “soda” to those of you outside of God’s country…  But going anywhere that had pop put me at risk of being exposed, and bringing that back to my daughter and her family, which is composed of her, a two-year-old boy and an infant just a few months old. Not to mention her husband, an officer at Ft. Benning, who could then end up spreading the virus to literally thousands of soldiers.

My need for a carbonated caffeine beverage was not a greater need than keeping my daughter’s family – and my son-in-law’s work situation – safe.

I value them more than my desire for pop.

I hope you’ll forgive me for the “first-world” example, but maybe you’ll relate when it comes to leaving the safety of your home for the sake of conveniences we can live without for a while.

Quoting two of my favorite theologian-scholars, James Tiberius Kirk and Mr. Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.”

The third command from this passage is that In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus – which was the mindset of being a servant

Jesus took the nature of a servant – someone whose position automatically places others ahead of himself, even going so far as to give His life for people who did not love Him, including you and me.

It is CHRISTLIKE to be a servant who puts others’ needs ahead of our own. If we claim to love and follow Jesus, then this kind of servanthood needs to be evident – and at the forefront of our lives.

We don’t just need to serve others once in a while. We need to BE servants. Serving others needs to be part of who we ARE, not just something we do.

So look around your community right now. What needs can you help with?

Can you volunteer to help with meals and supplies to those who can’t or shouldn’t get out?

Can you help someone learn how to order things online or from an app for their grocery store so they don’t have to go out?

Can you maybe start a Facebook prayer group or Bible study group (or Zoom).

Can you help someone learn how to use those tools so they can communicate with loved ones?

It can be as easy as checking on the people in the houses or apartments next to your own to see if they need anything you can get or have done for them.

It can be donating money or food to homeless shelters or food pantries in your area, or even helping to pack and deliver meals.

We need to be actively looking for ways to serve people. Don’t just wait for opportunities to come and present themselves, although they will in some ways. We need to be looking and anticipating.

My point is that there are plenty of opportunities to serve. It’s up to you and me to look for them.

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 your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Folks, maybe it’s been said too much, but these really are unprecedented times for most of us. And I believe the church of Jesus can shine like maybe never before to this generation.

Ask God to help you not look at this crisis as a time to prioritize self-isolation, but as a time to serve those around you so that the light of Jesus will shine.

And through that, God may use you to influence someone for Jesus who might have just ignored Him before meeting you.

So be like Jesus – be a servant. Reflect Him well and watch what God does in and through you as we wait this thing out.

Take care – and God bless.

By Brian La Croix

Founder and owner of Discipleship DNA. I'm a former bi-vocational pastor who loves helping people come to faith in Jesus and live for Him with their whole lives. Married to Debra for 32 years. Five biological kids who are functioning, relevant, contributing adults, and seven adopted kiddos we're helping to turn out the same way.

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