Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love,
any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy
complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord
and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you
look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same
mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form
of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human
likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.
British statesman Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Apologies to Lord Acton: he was right in saying “power tends to corrupt,” but dead wrong in saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Follow me on this! The only person who has ever had absolute power is Jesus Christ, “the Lord God…the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). And Jesus Christ is incorruptible in His power, using His power, not for Himself, but for others.
We see this in today’s Scripture as the Son of God does not play the God card. He does not exploit or use His divinity for Himself but becomes human, humbling Himself to become a slave obedient to death, even death on a cross.
People fear power because they so often see it used against them to hurt, dominate and control. But Christ uses power not “against” people but “for” people, “empowering” them to be God’s sons and daughters.
In today’s passage Paul tells how from eternity Christ existed in the “form of God” sharing “equality with God.” Yet, out of infinite love for us He “did not 14 regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” He would not take advantage of that equality, but poured out His life for us.
In this we see the essential nature of God revealed:
God is not a grasping, self-centered being. He is most truly known through the One whose equality with God found expression in his pouring himself out in sacrificial love by taking the lowest place, the role of a slave, and whose love for his human creatures found consummate expression in his death on the cross.(Gordon Fee, Philippians)
The Son of God did not want to be God without us. He did not want to cling to His existence as God, but poured Himself out so that we might forever share God’s life and glory. “What is then, the divine essence? It is the free love, the omnipotent mercy, the holy patience of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2)
The ancient Nicene Creed put it like this: Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” In coming down and taking to Himself our humanity, Jesus turned upside down the world’s notions of greatness and glory. Jesus instructed His disciples to follow His lead: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-27).
Every person has some idea of what makes for the good life, the happy life. Scrutinize television commercials and marketing slogans as to the vision of the good life into which the culture wants us to buy. Jesus shows us the truly good life, a fulfilled life. The greatest Person to walk this earth, the only One with absolute power, renounced status and position so that He might serve others. So the apostle Paul does not think it too much to ask readers: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
- What are ways you see people using power against others?
- How do you see Jesus empowering people for life and fullness?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you think of one way that you might empower someone. In other words, how might you practically serve that person?
“Wait a minute! Don’t speak; stop thinking! Stand still before
this statement! God became a child! Here he is, poor like us, miserable and
helpless like us, a person of flesh and blood like us, our brother.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger