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What it means to ‘value others above yourselves’

A grandson's questions inspire reflection on how to engage in positive, productive dialogue.

Having a 2½-year-old grandson means hearing the word “why” quite often.

In fact, nearly every sentence is phrased “Jeopardy!” style — in the form of a question. 

Some are silly or reflect a particular interest he has at the moment. Recently, I recited the items in my purse and explained why birds sing (after a peek online to ensure my answer was correct).

And yet others are deep, philosophical and perhaps spiritual: “Nana, why do you wear a mask?” And more recently, “Nana, why don’t you have your mask on right now?”

Tamie Ross with her 2½-year-old grandson, Bennett, who is at an age when he asks a lot of questions.

Tamie Ross with her 2½-year-old grandson, Bennett, who is at an age when he asks a lot of questions.

I’m so glad Bennett trusts me enough to ask questions, especially about masks. More importantly, I’m glad he asks with such a pure heart and a real desire to know the answer.

That’s not often the case on social media. Many self-proclaimed pundits and experts pose questions only to show how clever they are and to further their own point of view: 

“Help me understand why …”

“What am I missing …”

“Why is it that …”

The rest of their word allotment is devoted to explaining how those with other viewpoints are foolish, ill-informed or simply lacking in the insight they have. (Incidentally, true experts on any given subject don’t impart their wisdom in this manner. It simply isn’t necessary for them to use sarcasm in order to educate.)

These days, more often than not, such posts center around COVID-19, vaccinations, mask-wearing and related subjects, like mandates or restrictions.

And while I cannot respond for everyone, I can answer my toddler grandson and share with whomever would truly like to understand my perspective.

Quite simply, the reason is Philippians 2:3-5: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

I try each day, with God’s help, to live this way. I fall short, as we all do. But I keep trying and learning from those stumbles. It’s that important.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Because of Paul’s words and after a lot of prayer and reading, I asked my doctor to allow me to receive a vaccination earlier this year in spite of him telling me repeatedly that I could not risk getting the shot (because of my autoimmune diseases). I’m thankful that he relented, and even more so that my system responded favorably. I prayerfully hope that I can contribute in this way to our collective return to whatever normality awaits us all, and that you will choose the same.

This passage is why I began wearing a mask last March when I was in contact with anyone who didn’t live in my home full-time — including my adult children. It is why I continue to do so now unless I know that everyone within 6 feet has been vaccinated and has the shot’s full protection, because now the risk is much more so for them and not me.


Related: Faith and COVID-19


Therein lies the complexity and the beauty of this verse both at the time it was written as well as today: Paul knew how difficult it would be for most of us to adopt the mindset of Christ, to humble ourselves enough so that we truly believe everyone else is more valuable than we are and then to consistently respond and react this way to them and the world at large. 

If we are striving to live this way, then we’ve accepted another truth: It simply is not possible to compartmentalize or justify anything less.

Abraham Lincoln’s observation about our actions speaking louder than our words has expanded over the last 165 years to come full circle. Now our words often are our actions as we post on social media or like and share others’ contributions. It is how we are remembered and the impression that lasts longer because of the footprint we leave behind.

If I’m not trying my best to live like Christ, I’m not fooling anyone, and least of all not the One who matters most. He knows my heart.

My grandson, who misses nothing and asks about everything, won’t be deceived, either. And I sincerely hope that’s one question he never has to ask.

TAMIE ROSS is a member of The Christian Chronicle’s Editorial Board. A former online editor for the Chronicle, she is a member of the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma. Contact [email protected].

Filed under: communication Coronavirus COVID-19 Dialogue Opinion questions social media vaccines Views

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