“You’ll know if you’re a servant by how you react when people treat you like one.” —Jon Courson
This is one of my very favorite passages in all of scripture because it’s practical and poetic, filled with complex truth yet also rich in life applicable points that are fairly easy to grab hold of. I’ll try to stick to the life applicable stuff and save the juicier bits for another post, or maybe I’ll just leave those for the scholars to quibble over. I’m not sure yet.
At the end of chapter one, we found Paul exhorting the Philippian believers to walk worthy of the gospel, to actually live as citizens of the kingdom of God. He tells them to stand unified, to strive side by side for the gospel, and to even suffer for the sake of Christ. I spoke of this in my last post. How we do this life as Christians matters very, very much.
This section opens with the same call to unity.
1) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
In these two verses Paul is basically saying, “Look. Because you have been given so much goodness in Christ: encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship in His Spirit, affection, compassion…then make me really happy by getting along!”
What does ‘getting along’ look like? Getting along in the body of Christ means seeing as He sees, loving as He loves, and being unified in purpose. The phrase ‘being in full accord’ in the Greek means ‘one souled’. I love that. It indicates a union that is far deeper than mere friendship. So how do we do this?
Let’s look at the next couple of verses.
3) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This whole section hangs on these two verses. The path to unity lies in humility. Understand here that Paul’s call for unity does not mean uniformity. We will not see eye to eye on all matters of doctrine. We will disagree on a great many things like how to run a local church, what is and is not appropriate behavior, appropriate pastimes, etc. This is why humility is the key.
See, if I can look to the interests of my brothers and sisters and put their needs above my own desires, then we can avoid a whole lot of offense, though we may disagree on a boatload of non-essentials. And what does that say to a dark and dying world? You know the answer, my friends, since I hammer this a lot: Unity in spite of our differences will make the world stand up and see the reality of Jesus Christ. We actively become the light of the world, as Jesus said we are. (Matthew 5:14)
So this sounds great, right? But how do we know we’re on the path of humility? Is it possible to know? Of course it is. Our Father doesn’t tell us to do anything that is unattainable. (Though a good many things He commands require His assistance and strength to carry out!). In the next bit He gives us the ultimate model of humility in Jesus Christ.
5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7) but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I really like the way verse 5 is rendered in the HCSB: “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus.” This is the example we are to follow.
The standard that Jesus set is profound. Yet our King shows us how to do what he asks of us…how to love, how to put others first, how to obey God even when it’s hard.
Steep in this for a moment with me. The King of all creation willingly became a servant, willingly set aside his divine privileges and became one of us, then willingly paid the price for our sin because we simply couldn’t do it ourselves. God alone is holy. We are not. We may be super nice people, but we are not holy no matter how many good deeds we perform. What a radical display of love and humility that He did all the heavy lifting in reconciling us to Himself! This is why it’s called the gospel, my friends, because this is very good news indeed!
This section is so full of thought-provoking bits, but I’ve rattled on long enough for one post. Until next time, I encourage you to reflect on the opening quote by Jon Courson. It really spoke to me. How do I react when I’m treated like a servant? When I don’t get credit for the things I do, or when I’m ignored or unappreciated?
I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like being a parent, doesn’t it? In fact, we can often feel that way in any relationship; in marriage, at work, in our friendships. And pondering how I all too often react when I feel unappreciated, when I don’t get kudos for a job well done…well, let’s just say I still have a ways to go in the old humility department!
Grace and peace,
What this passage tells us about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit:
*In Christ we have encouragement, affection, compassion, fellowship, comfort→He works these things in us!
*Jesus is humble, obedient, exalted, King!!
*He wants us to follow His example and be humble and unified.
Photo by JillWellington, courtesy of Pixabay.