In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
I love this passage of Scripture because it gives us a defined expectation for how we are to approach relationships with one another. Paul clearly indicates that our own personal mindset that should determine the character and quality of our human relationships. Embedded in his thought process is that we should have the inclination or mental attitude as Christ Jesus. It is a fixed state of mind … unwavering. Steadfast. Resolved. Committed.
So what was the mindset of our Lord? How did He view His relationships with people … with us? Paul indicates that Jesus displayed an inconceivable attitude of humility. “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage.” He took on the very nature of a human servant! And He was so obedient to His Master – Father God – that He was willing to die for the purchase of our redemption … even death on a cross. Wow! The bar was set extremely high for us!
Is Paul using hyperbole? I’m not inclined to believe he is doing so. I think he is just trying to describe the “mindset” or “attitude” of humility we are to emulate. Our tendency as humans is compare ourselves with others and then find some point with which to elevate ourselves – mostly in our own eyes but sometimes in the form of diminishing others. It reminds me of a parable Jesus told:
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It is clear that our Lord Jesus desires us to be humble in our attitudes … in our spirits … and in our conduct. As Paul more fully shared, humility is to govern our relationships within the Church – the Body of Christ:
Romans 12:3-8 (NIV)
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
The most tangible manifestation of that character is to be willing to love one another to the fullest depth possible – regardless of the personal cost. And put in context, the giving of ourselves through serving the needs of others within the Body of Christ … as each of us has been uniquely equipped to do … is the application of this passage. We are not to boast of our gifts … or find pride in them … rather we are to exercise them for the needs of others. Servanthood. That was the mind of Christ when He walked this earth. That is the heart of Christ as He lives in us. We have been redeemed to participate in the divine nature to operate in our spiritual giftedness for the benefit of others. Humble servants is what Jesus called us to be for His Kingdom and glory!