Letters from Prison - Philippians 2:1-11
The Mind of Christ
Paul’s under house arrest; he’s in chains, under constant guard, without any freedom of movement, isolated from his friends and misunderstood by the church in Rome – and here he says, “What would really make me so incredibly joyful would be for you to demonstrate the unity of humility.” I couldn’t help but wonder – how would we fill in this blank? “What would really make my joy complete would be _____.” What would you fill in that blank? “What would really make me incredibly happy in life is _____.” Paul effectively says here, “What would top off my tank of joy isn’t getting out of house arrest – it isn’t getting all my friends back – it isn’t being vindicated before church leaders who are condemning me – given an award for serving Christ – no. Paul says it would bring me incredible, fulfilling joy to see the church demonstrating humility toward one another. We don’t all love the same things, but we share the same love. We have all received the love of God through Christ. And we’re to demonstrate that by taking that same kind of selfless love and live it out with each other.
What is the profile for the selfishly ambitious?
There is an inability to admit wrong-doing or fault. They get extremely angry and defensive if criticized while they themselves have a critical spirit. They will not forgive easily. They are given to petty jealousies. They love to hog the credit. They want to be the one who came up with the great idea. They want to be the one in charge, the one that everything has to come through, the one who controls everything.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Humility of mind is an attitude. It’s not so much how you dress, or what you drive, or where you live. In fact, we’re never commanded to “look” humble. No, humility is an attitude of the mind and heart. It say’s “I don’t have to be first all the time.” It says, “I care about those beneath me.” It say’s “I’m going to help someone else win for a change.” Furthermore, it say’s “I’ll help others win even when no one notices.” Humility is not a phony-baloney style of fake piety, a self-degrading attitude, full of self-pity. It’s not a sad or long face. Rather, it’s a genuine attitude that doesn’t push ourselves forward, nor push ourselves backwards. But rather, humility forgets self and pushes others forward and upward.
Will you follow the mindset of Jesus?
What Paul is doing in the Philippian passage is that he’s holding up the incarnational example of Jesus and he’s saying that the only way people can be reached and relationships healed and joy found sometimes is through extreme self-demotion. And what he’s saying is that Christ volunteered and said, “I’ll be demoted.” We want love to work another way, a less painful way, a less costly way, but love can’t. Paul talks about a death to self so that the life of Christ can be born more fully in us. They were to be like Christ, the chief servant. Christ’s attitude was to become theirs. They were to focus on giving rather than receiving. If God chose to exalt them, they would be truly exalted, but there were no guarantees of what that meant. True servanthood can never be perceived as simply an alternate route to the top, to exaltation.