Fulcrum: what’s the next step when we can’t get along?

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:12-13

“I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you…Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.”

2 Corinthians 12:15, 19

What does love look like? It lays down all it owns for the sake of the beloved.

This is what Christ did for me. He gave up position, wealth, recognition, respect, power, comfort, dignity, and then, after all of that, He gave up his life. For me.

As he prepared to face the cross, he left this instruction with his followers:  Love each other the same way. i.e. Lay down absolutely everything for each other if you have to.

I have a love-hate relationship with verses about this kind of love. It’s beautiful and it describes who I want to become, but these sentences often sting because my heart attitude is so unlike them.

Freely spend myself and all I have for you? No thank you. Even with everything I’ve been given, I count the cost, I weigh the risk, I hold my rights close.

I’ve read that among the many stresses of serving overseas, co-worker conflict can be the tipping point that sends a missionary home. It’s one of the top three reasons people leave the field earlier than anticipated. We’ve been warned over and over about it.  

Now, here we are. We’re preparing to join a new team and a new way of doing things. We’ll be working with them on a tight schedule, in close proximity, and under a lot of pressure. And I’ve been anxious that we may wrestle a little to find our rhythm with each other.

So, it’s been my prayer that God will prepare us to work through any misunderstandings or clashes that come up and that, in His grace, we will mesh well with each other and be a team that is a joy and encouragement to each other and to those we are there to serve.

I think, in answer to that prayer, He has been driving home with me how much a selfless, humble attitude does to smooth interactions with others and diffuse conflict. He has been calling my attention to his example: willing to take the lowest position, willing to cover great cost without being repaid, willing to forego recognition or attention.

Gently, he has been pointing out how little I resemble that example, with my son, in my marriage, and in my own family. If I am to follow it, not only in those intimate relationships, but in my every-day, rubbing shoulders relationships, there must be a shift.

In Philippians 2, Paul asks his readers to imitate Christ; and he calls their attention not just to a specific set of behaviors, but to an attitude that reveals itself in a pattern of choices.

The attitude is the fulcrum.

The behaviors build up to the reveal of that attitude:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ had…He humbled himself…therefore God elevated him to the place of highest honor…”

Philippians 2:3-5, 8-9

What were the “do not’s” in this passage? Selfishness. The need to impress. The relentless pursuit of my own interests. What do all those behaviors point to?

They reveal a fulcrum of PRIDE.

That’s why they are so unlike Christ. And so, Paul pleads with the believers in Philippi to humble themselves, because even the One deserving of all the glory chose an attitude of humility as his pattern. And God says this is what leads to the honor we’re all so hungry for in the first place.

We all have a fulcrum. Working closely with other people is often the context that makes what that fulcrum is so clear. If I am to love my team, I must prepare myself to lay down many things, and the first of those things is my pride.

Lord,

You will be working on this with me my whole life long. Humility is the divine crafting of your hands alone. I am not naturally driven to seek it or even able, in my fallenness, to produce authentic humility. But as I set my eyes on you, you are moving me closer to understanding two things:

  1. Humility is one of your most beautiful works.
  2. You are faithfully building it in my life.

Help me to lay down my craving for honor.

Help me to cling to the promise that you honor those who humble themselves, and it is more satisfying than any recognition this world could offer. Change my attitude, Lord, and the behavior will follow.

When my actions, my words, my pattern of choices show a drift, help me to recognize it: these are the products of pride. The next step is not to grow discouraged with the ugliness of it or fret over the trend I see. The next step is just to humble myself.

How do I follow the example of Christ in all I am called to decide and navigate? What is the next step when we can’t get along?

A humble attitude is a pretty reliable place to start.

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