It is often referred to as the “king of the elements,” according to Wikipedia. This element forms more compounds than any other element, meaning it works well with its fellow elements. It has almost ten million compounds described to date, but this is merely a fraction of the theoretically possible compounds it can form. This element is essential for all life and the second most abundant element in the human body by mass behind oxygen. You are very familiar with it, whether you know it from backyard BBQ’s or the diamond ring on your hand, it’s Carbon.
This morning, Carbon is going to help us better understand Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The first part of chapter two of Paul’s letter to the Philippians serves as our second lesson and in it, Paul asked the Philippians to Value One Another. Paul said this in a variety of ways, beginning at verse 2, Paul wrote,
“Being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 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.”
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from Rome, while he was in prison, to encourage them. Paul encouraged them as his partners who share in the spread of the gospel. He told them his prayer for them was “that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Paul prayed this hoping that their faith would grow, and as it grew, that their faith would show itself by their loving actions toward one another.
As an encouragement, Paul used himself as an example of faith expressing itself in action. Paul was willing to go to prison on behalf of the gospel. He valued the gospel so highly and the need to tell others what Jesus had done so much, that he was willing to put aside his own freedom and go to prison, if it meant the gospel might spread. Paul’s heart of faith allowed him to put aside his own interests and look to the needs of others.
It is this focus on faith, not just something in the heart or spoken, but also that which shows itself in putting the needs of others first, that Paul began chapter two of his letter to the Philippians. Paul said, “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,” basically, if you believe and are filled with the love and thanksgiving that faith in Jesus our Savior brings, Paul said “then make my joy complete.” In other works, put your faith into action. Paul doesn’t say it so bluntly because faith in action is not a simple process of doing the right thing, but it is the beautiful expression of a heart changed, a new creation by God, inside of us that now lives to serve God and our neighbor in love.
This is the description by which all of us should be known as Christians, but we are not always like this. We do not always Value One Another. We do not always place a high value on the needs of one another. Instead, we place a low value on the needs of others, acting selfishly and not putting forth much effort to care for one another. Paul E. Kretzmann in his commentary on this portion of Scripture wrote, “The general experience seems to show that such congregations as have many advanced and well-founded members are apt to sin in this respect, that pride takes possession of their hearts, that sinful, overbearing behavior results.”
Kretzmann’s point highlights Paul’s praise of the Philippians as those who enjoy all the benefits of faith. The Philippians were believers, in fact, they had great faith, just like many of us. Yet, those of us who know what great things our Savior Jesus has done for us are vulnerable to pride because we forget the many years of lessons and experiences we have had with the Word of God to bring us to the faith we have today. Those years spent hearing the Word of God are not shared by everyone around us. Therefore, we must be careful not to be blind to the needs of others weak in faith or new to the faith who need mature Christians to go out of their way, to put aside their needs and to look to their needs. It may mean being patient in Bible Study, it may mean talking to someone different before or after church, rather than the same person you seek out every Sunday. It may also mean singing new hymns. It may mean change or it may mean continuing a tradition, but explaining why we do it that way, so those traditions retain the rich meaning that was intended for them when they were first instituted.
This sinful pride which leads us to look to our own interests above the interests of others, is only overcome with the reminder of how much Jesus valued us. Paul reminded the Philippians and all of us of Jesus’ love when he wrote,
“5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
Jesus left the glory of heaven to rescue us. He gave up the use of his power, knowledge and comfort to come to earth. We had nothing of value to offer him, but it was his love for us that brought him here. When God looked at mankind, he erased the price tag reading sinful and rewrote on it the word “loved.” Jesus came to this world, was born, grew up, experienced hot and cold, hunger and thirst, even hatred, betrayal and death all to restore our relationship with him. He valued each one of us so much and it is that same love that he has placed into our hearts.
This love of Jesus that valued your life more than his own has changed you forever. Carbon can also be changed into something that lasts forever. Diamonds are made of pure carbon. The same carbon that makes up most of your charcoal briquettes or the graphite in pencils, but the process is very difficult to make carbon form diamonds, taking tremendous pressure and heat. Jesus walked a difficult path to make you and I what we are. Through his perfect obedience to God’s law, his innocent suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus brought you forgiveness and eternal life. It was a path so difficult only he could walk it; a process that literally kills everyone else who tries.
Therefore, we are a new creation by grace alone. And as this new creation, filled with the love of Christ and eager to imitate his love, Jesus wants us to be like Carbon. Carbon forms more relationships with its fellow elements than any other. It is not a prideful or presumptuous element, instead it looks to bond with as many other elements as it can. It is always looking for a new way to form connections and share its energy. It is also an essential element for life.
As believers, make connections with one another. Actively strengthen old bonds you have with one another and seek out new ways to form connections with those you don’t know so well. Do all of this by valuing others needs above your own. In love, share the life-giving message of Jesus to remind one another of the hope you have and to give hope to those who have none. Do all of this because you want to imitate the love of Jesus.
We have many opportunities to show that we do place a high value on one another. Today at our Voter’s Meeting, we have the chance to make choices about the ministries of Divine Peace. May God be with us as we seek to serve the interests of others above our own. During this coming week, God give you the opportunities and a heart of love to put other’s interests before your own. Father’s care for your families, wives support your husbands, parents teach your children about their Savior, to live as productive members of society and to serve the church. As we continue to meet together for worship, Bible Study and fellowship events let us not be quick to argue or hold grudges, but be kind and honest with one another.
Do all of this out of thanks to our Savior Jesus. He has given us the hope of heaven, where we will live forever shining like diamonds. We will be flawless, filled with love and alive together with all those who put their hope in Jesus, whom God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Carbon may be ‘king of the elements,’ but Jesus is the king of all and he has made us his people. Filled with his gracious love and as members of his kingdom, Value One Another. Amen.