If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care -
then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!
Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever,
so that all created beings in heaven and on earth - even those long ago dead and buried - will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ,
and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.
That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully - no bickering, no second-guessing allowed!
Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night
so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.
Even if I am executed here and now, I'll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your rejoicing.
But turnabout's fair play - you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for me.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)