Waging War Against Kudzu that Kills Community2
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
The Spirit’s at work to build not just individual people but communities of grace and truth, light and mercy, sacrifice and joy. Part of the Spirit’s work is clearing out all the clutter that keeps us from becoming those kinds of communities: selfish ambition, vain conceit, pride, and self-interest. This stuff grows like kudzu, choking out healthy and thriving communities.
Selfish ambition, vain conceit, pride, mere self-interest. These dark energies corrupt individuals and they corrode community. The Holy Spirit is set in opposition to all of this, working out the incorruptible power of Christ in our lives individually and together.
And we have a role to play in that Holy Spirit led work. Paul here puts on his coaching hat and adopts one of his favorite coaching techniques: take something off, put something else on in its place. Get rid of the clutter, replace it with beauty. Get rid of sin, replace it with something holy. Get rid of the noise, replace it with song.
Take these things off. The first step: admit the problem. This requires our awareness that we’re both entangled with something and that it needs to go. We cannot remove selfish ambition or vain conceit if we do not first humbly acknowledge that those things are at work in us—perhaps even in greater ways than we currently are aware of.
We then have to learn to hate the problem instead of coddling it. To realize that our selfish ambition or vain conceit is a hindrance to the life-giving work of the Spirit. And in biblical terms, to repent of it, to turn away from it. Sometimes we do this reluctantly. Sometimes we come to our senses and do it with great joy.
Put these things on. Paul is wise and here he’s hundreds of years early in naming some key dynamics in psychology (and spirituality): getting rid of what is broken isn’t enough. You’ve got to replace it with some that is much better.
This work of replacing old broken things with what is beautiful is a process. It is rarely a one-time event. It is rarely a straight line. It is most often a bumpy road with lots of set-backs and distractions. But slowly we can learn to become restored image-bearers, full of the Holy Spirit just like Jesus was and to have life in our wakes just as there was life in his.
Name one character trait or habit in your life that you know Jesus would have you to put off today.
Name one thing that you think would be the better thing Jesus would want to replace it with.
Spend one minute in prayer, visualizing you handing over to Jesus what needs to be taken off and receiving back from him the better gift that he wants to give you.