Has Selfishness Created Strife in Your Life?

Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.

Philippians 2:3

Hands inUnity is essential to a healthy team, organization, or even family. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come by. Too often strife rules over peace. We’ve all experienced it: Office spats, family feuds, and church splits. It is dominant in politics and among rivals representing opposite positions. King Solomon had much to say about the cause of dissension:

  • “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18)
  • “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12)
  • “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.” (Proverbs 28:25)

The Apostle Paul warned, “…brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions… turn away from them.” (Romans 16:17 NASB). He knew all too well that the church is only effective when there is unity. Unfortunately, the first century Corinthian church was full of dissension. Members had “love feasts,” followed by communion. According to Paul, those who brought food gorged themselves and became drunk, leaving the poorer believers to go hungry (1 Corinthians 11:17–22). The gluttons not only dishonored the Lord, but also hurt their fellow believers, causing resentment and conflict. The Corinthians’ disharmony was evident in many ways, but the root cause was the same: selfishness.

Some people are just naturally argumentative, always looking to debate, or playing the “devil’s advocate”. If they’re not careful, their antagonism will create contention, offending others, and entertaining only themselves. Through a bond of peace, we are urged to be humble, gentle, kind, patient, and loving… encouraging one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). If we don’t have peace amongst ourselves, why would unbelievers look to us to find peace with God? “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

That doesn’t mean we all have to agree all the time, but it does mean that we bear with one another, extend grace when it’s needed, and consider others better than ourselves. So, where does unity come from? Selflessness — the foundation of Christian love. It’s Jesus’ selfless sacrifice on the cross that allows us to claim His unmerited grace and mercy. If we are to truly be Christ-like in our attitudes, we must humble ourselves and focus on the needs of others — not in our own strength, but with complete dependence on God. When God gives us His perspective, we can love freely. As Paul reminds us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) Let’s not let our minor differences on theology, style, or approach create division in the body of Christ. Let’s not let our own ambitions, frustrations, or preferences create conflict. Let’s recognize our inability to do this on our own and press into God for His strength, unconditional love, and perspective.

Personal Application

How can you apply unity to a conflict you might be facing? “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5–6)

With Christ the following two verses are possible. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NLT)

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to show you where you need to be more humble, patient, and kind. Ask Him to let His perfect love flow through you.

Jim Grassi image and signature  Jim Grassi, D. Min.