Jesus modeled so many things for us in the gospels. In essence, he showed us how to live. He showed us what it looks like to be perfect in God’s sight. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but he is the only man who ever lived, and ever will live, who was without sin. So every word he spoke, and every action he performed should be examined as a model for how we are to live in this world. He taught us how to pray, how to obey, how to trust the Father and how to serve our fellow man. None of these things are effective without faith or without the aid of the Holy Spirit. But serving our fellow man brings with it an added level of difficulty because there are so many variables to consider when it comes to our flawed nature. For example, as a species we are quite selfish, which means that our flesh always wants to put ourselves first. And as believers we can become quite self-righteous, which can be a stumbling block to those considering the faith. But Jesus taught us to behave differently. He taught us that there are times when we should alter our normal pattern of behavior for the good of others. And Paul reinforced that notion in his letter to the Corinthians in first Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 24, which says:
“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
At first blush, this verse may sound a bit extreme. Are we really called to stop seeking that which is good for us and solely pursue that which is good for others? No. That isn’t what Paul is saying. At the time Paul writes this, he is in the process of explaining to the Corinthians that we shouldn’t allow our religious rights, freedoms, and behaviors to cause others to stumble. We need to consider how we behave around unbelievers, seekers and new believers as to not leave a negative impact on them by doing, or not doing, things that are not sinful, but might be solely religious in nature. Later in this chapter, Paul uses the example of an unbeliever inviting a believer to a meal. That believer should eat whatever is provided without raising any objections even if he would normally choose not to eat it out of religious conviction. In doing so, not only is he not sinning, but he is not seeking his own good, but the good of the one who invited him to a meal. In the same way, we are to temper our religiousness if it might have a negative effect on the one we are trying to reach. Jesus ate with sinners, Paul made himself like those he was trying to reach, and we should temper our legalism for the good of others.
“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” I encourage you to put your religiosity on the shelf when dealing with those who are unbelievers, seekers or new believers. Don’t use Christian lingo that they don’t understand. Don’t turn your nose up at them when they have a beer or wine with dinner even if you don’t drink. If you are with someone who doesn’t drink but you normally have a glass of wine with your meal, choose not to order wine in their presence. Learn to overlook a religious offense if it is done in ignorance. If what you encounter is not sinful, or counter to God’s laws or his character, let it go for the good of others. And if your normal religious behavior may cause someone to stumble, abstain from that behavior while in their presence. I encourage you to be ready to lay aside your own good for the good of others. In doing so you will be practicing this mandate and reflecting the character of Jesus.