Being self-centered is part of the flesh nature we were born with, and the battle to overcome its sinful patterns continues after salvation. Our culture does us no favors because it promotes putting ourselves first and demanding our rights. However, Christlike love puts the interests and needs of others first and is willing to give up our rights. This is why Romans 14:13-15 says if we let our freedoms hurt a fellow believer, we are no longer walking according to love.
Christlike love begins in our mind as we come to know and believe the love that God has for us (1 John 4:16). If He hadn’t loved us first, we’d never be able to care for others (1 John 4:19). But His love now abides in us and, as we depend on Him, flows through our life to touch those around us.
—Charles F. Stanley, “Walking in Love”
The first time my wife Beth was asked to serve on our elementary school PTA, she laughed. Surely they had mistaken her for someone else—someone with this whole parenting thing figured out. Every day felt like an uphill battle merely getting our children to school in one piece. What on earth would qualify either one of us for assisting a school-wide organization?
The third and fourth time she was asked to serve, she wondered if they were just desperate. She had heard about the abysmal volunteer rates and the arguments that would break out in most meetings. She also knew that parents were nervous to get involved for a variety of reasons, whether it be the same feelings of inferiority, or language barriers, or even the individualistic mindset our rat-race culture encourages.
As she dwelt on the invitation, she realized the immense opportunity being in a position of power like that might afford. In a position of leadership, she could create a more welcoming, hospitable atmosphere and also invite others—often left out of such conversations—into decision-making positions. She was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our children and had the extra margin some parents might not have. And while the idea of serving felt daunting, what if she could work toward making the experience less intimidating for other people? What if she could help foster a more equitable community? Or even more significant, what if she could show the parents how needed their voices are?
“Christlike love puts the interests and needs of others first and is willing to give up our rights.”
So my wife did something she never thought she would do—she accepted the nomination for President of the PTA. Her first order of business was to eliminate any barriers or hindrances, no matter how trivial, that would keep someone from being involved. Instead of holding monthly meetings at the school library in the early afternoon, she moved them to the evenings at a nearby restaurant. She actively sought out and welcomed parents she knew would be hesitant to get involved.
Because of her efforts to level the playing field and make sure marginalized voices and viewpoints were heard, the school now has a richer culture and enthusiasm. Parents who felt ostracized and uninvited are now leading meetings and parties. Because Beth used her position of leadership to empower others, making families more incentivized and eager to speak up on both small and large issues, parents began to realize their thoughts and opinions mattered.
Beth is uncertain how her time as president will affect the future of the PTA or our children’s school. She’d be the first to admit she didn’t know exactly what she was doing–and it was a team effort all along the way. Still, we can’t help but let our imaginations run into the future. What might be possible if more people were willing to give up their rights and power for the sake of love?
Because Beth used her position of leadership to empower others, parents began to realize their thoughts and opinions mattered.
As I watched Beth’s experience unfold during the school year and saw how the PTA became transformed, it reminded me of our role as followers of Christ: Ephesians 5:1-2 urges us to “therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” All too often I forget that Jesus did not merely give of Himself when an occasion arose; He lived His life with the intention of sacrificial love. His posture was that of a servant for those in need around Him. It wasn’t part of a to-do list or a moment of charity but, rather, informed every aspect of how He lived. Just as Jesus humbled Himself for others, so too are we called to pour out our life for the amelioration of others and the flourishing of God’s kingdom.
Illustration by Adam Cruft