Imitating Christ’s Humility
1 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, 2 then make my joy complete by 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.Note: Philippian 5 is also know as the kenosis or “emptying” passage because
of the way Christ humbled himself to follow God’s will. Some scholars believe
that Phillipians 2:11 may be a hyme that Paul quoted.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] 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[b] 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!
9 Therefore 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.
Most Scholars use this passage as an example and a foundation to teach on the topic humility. Even the NIV Bible titles this passage, “Imitating Christ’s Humility.” It is hard to argue with this interpretation. It seems pretty clear that this passage communicates a clear strong challenge to value others above ourselves, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate example of humility. Christmas is a particularly good reminder of the humility of Jesus. Being the Son of the God of the entire Universe, Jesus could have been born in great power and prestige. Instead, he was born into poor family spending his first days on earth in a feeding trough. So that’s great…Jesus was humble, God tells us to be humble and that should be enough…but wait there’s more…
When we study an epistle like Philippians, it is my opinion that it is a good idea to look at it as a whole. It is, after all, a letter to the church at Philippi. The Apostle Paul is commonly accepted as the author of this letter. Back in the day, I still remember my new testament professor calling the purpose of letters like Philippians, the occasion. Gordan Fee seems to define the occasion for an epistle as answers to the question why “this letter, to this people and at this time.” That’s great, so what, why should we care about the reason why someone like Paul wrote a letter to a church so long ago.
I think that the overall message of this letter and the reason why Paul wrote it have an important lesson for all of us this Christmas season…
Everyone wants Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward mankind. But very few people are willing to do what it takes to make this dream a reality. I see Paul’s letter the to Philippian church as a call to Unity. It seems to be accepted by scholars that the Philippian church was somewhat splintered internally. Paul clearly communicates that unity will only happen in the context of following Christ in His example of service and humility. Humility in Christ is not just a command from our all powerful God. Humility is not limited to something God wants from us. It is also something God wants for us. It is a key pathway toward unity in our Church and in our world. I would go so far as to say that Unity is impossible without Jesus and furthermore it is impossible without practicing the discipline of humility that Jesus followed as an example to us.