Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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 … Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)
Continuing with the attributes of Christian marriage highlighted in 1 Corinthians 13 we come to ‘love … is not self-seeking’.
Accepted wisdom today is to look out for yourself and to put yourself first. The Bible turns this idea on its head and teaches us to put others first.
Paul addresses this issue in the verses above quoted from Philippians 2. He knows that our natural inclination is to look out for our own interests and, as such, he encourages us to show that same level of concern for others.
In 1 Corinthians 13 we are encouraged not to be self-seeking (selfish). By implication we are obviously being encouraged to be ‘selfless’, ‘considerate’ and ‘generous’.
Let’s not pretend this is easy. You can’t spend 20+ years as a single person, the latter part of which is spent as a single adult, without a hint of self coming into your actions. I suppose engagement could be looked upon as a good trial ground, where two self-focused individuals learn how to refocus on their partner. Selfishness will surface in marriage, particularly in the early days, because the natural inclination will rise to the surface.
In marriage being selfless, considerate and generous takes many forms and certainly takes effort. Examples could include:
- being considerate of your spouse’s feelings;
- being prepared to say sorry and to apologise;
- being generous with your time;
- listening to your partner’s deeper concerns (listening beyond the words);
- in intimacy seeking to please your partner rather than satisfying your own desires.
Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)
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