Humbled this morning by this commentary on Ephesians which underscores the sharp contrast between the church of Christ and the culture we live in.
“And then we come to the church of Christ, and enter another world. Here we see a living body that “grows and builds itself up … as each part does its work” (4:16). Every person ministering to others is the sign of a healthy body. Not competition but cooperation is the heart of the Christian lifestyle. Even leaders are not exalted as “the” ministers, but are subordinated to the members, whom they are to serve by equipping them for their ministering work!
Like a family, the church is more concerned with brothers’ and sisters’ needs than their accomplishments. It is more committed to love than victory. Love is what Jesus showed when He gave Himself for us. “As dearly loved children,” we are to “live a life of love” (5:1–2) that is just like Christ’s! We are invited to surrender personal ambitions and subordinate our needs to the needs of others, being wiling to give ourselves up for those who have become so dear.
Here too we see a holy temple, in which the struggle to lift ourselves above the others—to use them for our gain—is rejected in favor of goodness, righteousness, and truth.
The lifestyle of the church decisively rejects the individualism of society, and values cooperation over competition. This lifestyle does not exalt the leader over the led, but sees serving others as the highest calling. Unity leads us to abandon pride of place or position and accept each other as fully equal in the community we share.
Paul portrays this new attitude in Philippians 2:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with 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 purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:1–8
This is the new world of relationships, so dramatically different from the world of individualism we have known.”
Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary, 929 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987).