Read: Philippians 2:1-11
Philippians 2:1-11 may be one of the most familiar passages in the whole Bible. Even though you may know it well, take a moment to read it through once again.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
–Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)
It’s a beautiful, poetic passage. And convicting. Centered around some very difficult commands and the idea that we should strive to be just like Christ, this section of Paul’s letter may leave you feeling a bit of guilt. As a wife, mother, counselor, friend, teacher, I have probably used this passage once too often to push myself to do more, be more, give away more, think of everyone else more, lose myself more—in short, to run myself ragged out of guilt. Burned out? Buck up and do more. Have a dream? Forget about it. Got an extra five minutes? Serve, serve, serve.
I don’t think that’s what Jesus is asking of us.
Today, let’s take a different direction with Paul’s verses.
What if right now we just look for Jesus in this passage? Think about application later. Just look at your King.
- Our God is the One who brings unity. He is pleased to be at your side, and He is pleased to bring you into a church full of His people (v.1).
- Our God is the One who comforts you with His love. He sees your hurt, and He knows exactly what will soothe the pain the most (v.1).
- Our God has fellowship with you. He brings humor and beauty and blessing into your day and wants to share that with you (v.1).
- Our God is building your character, creating fruit, including tenderness and compassion (v.1). He does not leave you to your sin.
- Our Jesus is a beautiful example, lovely to look at, not condemning but encouraging us by giving us a guide to follow (v.5)
- Our Jesus is the King of creation, but He did not hesitate to leave that aside for you (v.6).
- Our God was servant to friends and enemies alike. He took this job so that you would have a Savior who knew what it meant to be human, how helpless we are, how hard it is to bow low (v.7).
- Our God put on bones, muscles, nerves, flesh. He looked like us (v.8)! Imagine—the most beautiful One knows how it feels to run, to cry, to sing. Do you feel a little more connected to Him?
- Our Jesus was voluntarily obedient even when what was asked was the hardest course in all history (v.8). His love inspired His obedience. And that love is available to you.
- Our Lord’s obedience meant a horrible death (v.8). He hung on a cross so that we would live forever with Him. What mercy! What grace!
- Our Savior has the highest name, a name that inspires worship throughout the world, the heavens, even “under the earth” (v.9-10). What a privilege to be a part of such worship!
- Our Savior is Lord, having power and authority over others (11). Nothing is beyond Him. Nothing is impossible. This Lord is for you.
If you first look at this passage as one of worship—as we just have—the condemnation and “I should” statements that you feel when you read it might fade away a bit. Hopefully, more than a bit. Yes, Paul is laying down some guidelines, but he is doing so by pointing you toward Christ. He is offering you help.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul explains, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Quickly explained, when we look closely at Christ, gazing upon and enjoying His beauty, we become more like Him through the work of the Spirit.
The Lord is not watching us in condemnation. He is inviting us to gaze upon Him and feel His love–and thereby to be changed. Becoming humble and servant-like is not just a matter of gritting our teeth and struggling through it. Becoming humble and servant-like is closer than you think. Even closer is the Lord who loves you, walks besides you, and is pleased with each moment of effort that you exert. Take the invitation to worship Him and enjoy Him. Find rest from the pressure. The Lord will help you move forward from there.