Some modern Christian notions of ‘self-sacrifice’ and ‘cruciformity’ abstract an ethic of self-negation from its larger theological and teleological frame. A distinctively modern and Western trajectory has shaped an ‘exclusive altruism’ where the interests of the self and of the other stand in a competitive relationship. Although Paul's letter to the Philippians has often been cited as a prime example of such an ethic, closer scrutiny reveals a larger narrative frame, for both Christ and believers, that is oriented towards fullness, not kenosis. Within a community of solidarity and reciprocal asymmetry in Christ, each person's work in looking to the concerns of others is balanced and framed by a communal concern to safeguard the interests of each person in the interests of conjoint benefit. Pauline resources thus enable us to replace the modern polarity with an alternative: the proper opposite to being selfish is not to be ‘selfless’ but to be ‘self-with’.
Barclay, J. M. (2023). Does the Gospel Require Self-Sacrifice? Paul and the Reconfiguration of the Self. Studies in Christian Ethics, 36(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/09539468221132095