HAVING THE MINDSET OF CHRIST
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 2, specifically, Philippians 2:5-11.
Reflection | With the opening verses of the second chapter of this letter, Paul has directed the Philippians to act with humility – to look out and care for each other above and beyond their own self-interest. For Paul, exercising humility isn’t so much something we do – that we make happen on our own. It’s not that we humble ourselves as much as we are humbled by the work of the Holy Spirit upon our lives. Exercising humility is living out of the grace God gives to all of us.
For those seeking a tangible example of this kind of lifestyle, Paul shows rather than tells what a life lived out of humility looks like by pointing to Christ. Quoting the words of what is possibly a very early hymn or creed of the Church, Paul’s purpose is not simply to lift up Jesus as some sort of lofty ideal for us to admire. No, as always, Paul directs our attention to Christ as someone to follow: “in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (v. 5).
What does it look like to walk like Jesus, to reflect Christ-like humility? To begin with, we must recognize who Jesus is, “in very nature God.” (v. 6) Jesus, being equal with God, did not need to grasp or strive at divinity. It was already rightfully his. And yet, Jesus did not assert or exploit his divine status as a means of avoiding the Incarnation, but rather out of his exalted position, laid aside divine privilege to become one of us.
More than this, even though Jesus was God, Jesus never relied on his divinity during his earthly life. From what we see in the Gospels, Jesus did not do any miracles before his baptism in the Jordan River – the point at which he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This is significant. All that Jesus began to do in the name of the Father – teaching with authority, works of healing and deliverance – all derived not from his own divine power but from his total dependence as a human being upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
In becoming one of us, Jesus did not just condescend to become a human being, “rather, he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant” (v. 7). Even as he bore the respected and honored designation of “Rabbi,” Jesus both professed and embodied the truth that he did not come to reign or rule on the earth; he came to serve others. He did not stand apart or above others to protect his reputation. He associated and ate with sinners, foreigners, and outcasts. He touched the unclean and the sick. He washed the feet of his own disciples. And Jesus ultimately demonstrated the width and breath of his loving, sacrificial service for others “by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross” (v. 8).
Paul concludes by proclaiming how Jesus’ humble life, one that culminates in the humiliation and degradation of crucifixion, is exalted in a manner that commands universal worship. However, we must not overlook that it is the Father who elevates the Son: “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (v. 9). it is not Jesus who elevates himself. In other words, following Jesus’ example of humility also includes relinquishing control over one’s own self-promotion and trusting in God’s advancement of us.
We all have been created in the image of God. As children of our Heavenly Father, we are, thanks to Jesus, heirs of an incomprehensibly glorious and secure future – a future that can begin now. Our Creator wants us to be partakers in his divine nature – to experience the fullness of our life together in Him. And as his image bearers, to reflect the fullness of his love and grace to each other. Despite this, time and again, all our attention and all our energy can become singularly focused on our desires, our reputation, our rights, and our glory. When we look first to “me,” it quickly becomes every person for themselves. Pride always leads to our collective fall.
Being raised up and living as people of the Resurrection leads us into a different mindset – looking first to the Risen Christ. As we focus on our relationship with Jesus, following him, all of our attention and all of our energy becomes exercised not in vain but in contribution to the flourishing of all creation. Grace becomes more than a word, something we receive. As we let go of petty rivalries and jealousies for sake of proving ourselves; grace becomes something we give. As we release the need to be “right” and the demand to get what we think we deserve, the love we extend no longer remains conditional, it becomes unconditional in both its sacrifice and service to others.
Consider & Discuss | How does Christ’s attitude through his earthly life express itself in our attitudes about ourselves and our posture toward others? What are you more concerned with – your rights or the rights of others? Your self-advancement and promotion or the advancement and promotion of those who are neglected, forsaken, and therefore, in need?
Prayer Focus | Lord God, your work is to bring together what had been undone; to mend lives that have been broken; to restore order to what has been shattered; to heal those who have been suffering; to bring wholeness to what has been damaged; to bind up whatever has been torn apart; to release those who have been bound; to restore what has been lost or mislaid; and to complete what has been left undone. You have been doing all this since the beginning of history, and You will continue to do it until the world is completed. Lead us in following You, in walking humbly before you as we act justly, love mercy, and share together the newness of life that Jesus has secured for us all. Amen.