Recently during the drive home after a Sunday morning service I listened to my husband and son discuss the welcome portion of our worship time. The conversation started with my husband describing a handshake he experienced while welcoming a visitor. The man was of similar build to my husband, but when he gripped my husband’s hand he did so with more than a little force. I found it particularly interesting to hear that after he recovered from a moment of surprise, my husband briefly matched the hard squeeze before he relaxed his hand and focused on just welcoming the other man. My husband and son continued comparing handshake stories the rest of the drive home, with my son describing shaking hands with one of our church members as “like grabbing a two-by-four.”
I found the stories amusing but a couple of questions danced around at the back of my mind. What did this masculine battle of strength say about our relationships to fellow believers? Why is it necessary to try to position ourselves with some sort of importance over another believer, whether through handshakes or stories that begin with “Well that’s nothing! Let me tell you about (me, my, mine)…”
Jesus’ disciples even wanted to “rack and stack” according to spirituality when they asked Him in Matthew 18:1, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responded by calling a little child to Him and setting Him in the middle of them. Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I believe the child Jesus brought into their midst was a very young child, perhaps three or four years old. A child that young is so trusting and giving. A child that young, if protected from harsh examples, will relate to other children in joyful submission. At this point of development, the child will have started getting past self-absorption and begin to enjoy interacting with others. He won’t mind sharing with others and will even give another first place in games just because he enjoys being with his playmate.
As children get older they are exposed to an attitude they learn from adults and older children: the “Me first!” attitude. A favorite game in our neighborhood when I was five or six was centered around a large dirt pile at the edge of the woods. We kids would scramble up the sides racing to get to the top. Beware whoever made it first—the others would push, shove, and trip him in an attempt to claim the title, “King of the Hill.”
This brings me back to the question, “What should our attitude be toward fellow believers? I can only answer it using Jesus as our example.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (emphasis mine)
The result of submitting ourselves in love to others comes with a wonderful promise and blessing. It assures us that there is no need to try to prove our own importance because James tells us to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” 4:10 (emphasis mine)
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. How did Jesus love us? Sacrificially, putting our need for restoration to the Father above His own life. We are to love others the same way, especially fellow believers because, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. So how is this attitude accomplished, considering our tendency to puff ourselves up?
“Total surrender requires both a knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches and a commitment to obey its directives.” –The Woman’s Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers. The key here is obedience…obedience in getting to know God’s Word intimately and deliberately, and obedience to do His Will as He outlines it in His Word and through our effective prayers seeking Him.
First printed June 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.