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The past few posts have explored the idea of non-reciprocal living. Doing life in such a way that we aren’t, fundamentally, living for what we can get from others. Where by leaning into the life that Jesus shares with us, we learn to love and give and serve “expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35; see the previous posts about “non-reciprocal living”).

Reading carefully, it became clear that Paul was calling the followers of Jesus in Philippi (and that includes us), to never do anything from selfishness–looking out for our own interests (Philippians 2:3-8). Although it sounded extreme, it’s clear Paul invites and anticipates that we would be able to live “Christ-like” by thinking about our living the way Jesus thought about living. (See “A Closer Look at Non-Reciprocal Living.”)

But does anyone really live that way? Sure, Jesus may have loved and served “expecting nothing in return.” Yes, Jesus might have given his life for us not looking out for his own interests. (After all, Jesus was God! But, I’m not!) Does anyone normal person really live this way? Can someone really live like that?

To help the Philippians understand the call to this kind of life (and to help us!) Paul offers a couple of examples to his readers. He mentions Timothy and Epaphroditus, men with whom the Philippians would have been acquainted. Look at what he says about them (drawing on Philippians 2:19-29):

Of Timothy, he says . . .

He is genuinely concerned for the welfare of others. He does not seek after his own interest as so many others do. His one priority is the benefit of others and the priorities of Christ Jesus. He serves for the furtherance of the Gospel. He has demonstrated this attitude over time–he has “proven worth.”

Of Epaphroditus, Paul writes . . .

He is a worker and “soldier” for the faith and good of others. His concerns were for the hearts and lives of others, even when suffering physically himself. He longed for the good of others. He risked his very life for the furtherance of the work of grace in the lives of others.

What does this mean? It means that Paul’s call to do nothing from selfishness is not unattainable, that Paul’s longing that we adopt a way of thinking about life that mirrors Jesus’ own attitude is not a “good idea” but not the way people really live. By grace, because of the Spirit, through their connection with Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus and Paul (and others!) have lived non-reciprocal lives. And by grace, because of the Spirit, and through our connection with Jesus we could live that way too.


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