In our homeschool history studies, we are progressing through the Middle Ages, which inevitably includes a bit of church history. There are many fascinating lessons to be learned from the conflicts that went on between various church leaders. As we read about the split in 1054 between the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, I was unsurprised to learn that it had more to do with political power-plays than any doctrinal disputes.
On some level, even my children recognized a basic problem: the “leaders” had lost sight of Christ.
It was an “I” problem.
On both sides of the schism, all I could see was this: “I am the leader. I am the most powerful. I am the one you should listen to.”
Were they serving the little “I am” or the Great I AM?
Had they lost sight of making disciples?
Were their power-plays glorifying God and imitating Christ?
Their arrogance only served to create division and discouragement.
“I” problems are nothing new.
There’s a lot of discussion regarding the “I” problems among Christians today, particularly in a culture still learning to navigate social media. So much emphasis is placed numbers—number of likes, number followers, number of shares, dollars earned, etc. The “self” focus has become even more pervasive. It’s slipping into Christian music and books. It’s becoming deeply ingrained in church culture, particularly in America.
It’s time to shift our focus.
Our “I” should be in Christ.
The emphasis on “likes” and “followers” is not a new thing. When Jesus began his public ministry, many people left John the Baptist to follow Christ. John’s disciples were dismayed, and said, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3.26)
Oh no! Jesus has more followers than you!! What are we going to do????
John answered, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3.27-30).
John didn’t have an “I” problem. He rejoiced in Christ’s coming and recognized that his job to prepare the way for Christ had been successful. His “I” was joyfully fulfilled in Christ. In today’s terminology, he would have said, “It’s not about me; it’s all about Jesus.”
To Imitate Christ is To Set Self Aside
In the mornings, my kids and I have been reading Matthew’s account about Jesus. We have decided for our memory work that the theme of His gospel is “Jesus is the Prophesied Messiah.” One trait that particularly stands out as we read about Jesus is His selflessness.
Even though He was descended from kings, glorified in his birth, deft at silencing his critics, and the Son of God Almighty, He still put the needs of others before His own. He demonstrated selflessness by example.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
He “emptied Himself.”
He “humbled Himself.”
Are we doing likewise?
Do I take the form of a servant or do I demand to be served?
Am I obedient to God’s will or do I demand to have things done MY way?
I encourage you to read through one of the gospels and write down how often Jesus sets His needs aside for the needs of others. Even as He was writhing in pain on the cross, He was helping a third find salvation and making sure His mother was cared for.
How can I imitate His example today?