Philippians 2:1-13 (NRSV)
Chapter 2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, Verse 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Verse 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Verse 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Verse 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, Verse 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, Verse 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, Verse 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross. Verse 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, Verse 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Verse 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Verse 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; Verse 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The saying goes: “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.” How often do we excuse our selfishness and pride by taking on attitudes that let us off the hook? We say, “If my parents had paid more attention, I wouldn’t be in such a mess.” Or, “But I worked hard for this money, so I can spend it however I please.”
This hymn from Philippians invites us to have a different attitude—one that doesn’t involve excuses but lays aside our right to ourselves in order to serve God and others. The Apostle Paul encourages us to learn from Christ, which requires some self-demoting on our part, just as Christ chose downward mobility out of love for us. The gospel, summarized here, includes a plot twist that lifts humility over exaltation. Be of the same mind as Christ. Learn from him. Be changed by him. Be loved, beloved. And love others in return.
Holy God, how can we even begin to wrap our mind around a God who would become obedient to the point of death? Help us lay aside our excuses and lay our trust in you. Amen.