We are called to show utter commitment to the God who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom his invitation is addressed. – Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
Have the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Who, being in nature (the form of) God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be held fast (exploited, grasped)
but emptied himself,
taking on the nature (form) of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he abased (humbled) himself
and became obedient to the
point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
These verses have always been among my favorite verses in scripture. Why? For one, they show me the great sacrifice that Christ made in becoming human – to give up equality with God; to, in essence, give up the attributes of divinity in order to become like us. And not only to become like us, but to make himself the lowest among us . . . a slave. The word usually translated as "humbled" is too mild. "Abased" is more appropriate and accurate I believe, especially when one considers that Jesus also chooses a criminal’s death on the cross.
There is something about this "kenosis" (κενόω – the word translated as emptied) that speaks to me. This emptying out of Christ is an amazing act of love when you consider the consequences. As the article on kenosis in Wikipedia states:
An apparent dilemma arises when Christian theology posits a God outside of time and space, who enters into time and space to become human (Incarnate). The doctrine of Kenosis attempts to explain what the Son of God chose to give up in terms of his divine attributes, or divinity, in order to assume human nature. Since the incarnate Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, Kenosis holds that these changes were temporarily assumed by God in his incarnation, and that when Jesus ascended back into heaven following the resurrection, he fully reassumed all of his original attributes and divinity.
Specifically it refers to attributes of God that are thought to be incompatible with becoming fully human. For example, God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience as well as his aseity, eternity, infinity, impassibility and immutability. Theologians who support this doctrine often appeal to a reading of Philippians 2:5-8 . . .
Kenotic Christology [also] focuses on certain passages in the Gospels where Jesus questions his being called good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, Matthew 19:17), and evidence that he was not omniscient concerning the date of the Second Advent (Mark 13:32, Matthew 24:36).
I believe that this self-emptying love becomes the most important attribute of the God we have come to know most fully in Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension. And in this passage from Philippians, Paul would have the followers of Christ "define" themselves in the same way. "Have the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus." And this is brings up another reason why I love this passage. Paul not only encourages us to follow Christ’s example, I believe he also thinks it is entirely possible and plausible for us to do so. We too can empty ourselves of everything but love and follow in Jesus’ footsteps. This is backed up by no less than Jesus himself who once told his followers in John 14:12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father."
And what difference does his "going to the Father" make? It makes all the difference, because in John’s gospel the gift of the Holy Spirit comes after Jesus goes back to his father. It is the Holy Spirit which makes it possible for us mere mortals to have the same mind that Christ had. Again, the article on Kenosis in Wikipedia is informative when, in talking about Easter Orthodoxy, it states:
The Orthodox Mystical Theology of the East emphasizes following the example of Christ. Kenosis is only possible through humility and presupposes that one seeks union with God. [Therefore] kenosis is not only a Christological issue in Orthodox theology, it has moreover to do with Pneumatology, namely to do with the Holy Spirit. Kenosis, relative to the human nature, denotes the continual . . . self-denial of one’s own human will and desire. With regards to Christ, there is a kenosis of the Son of God, a condescension and self sacrifice for the redemption and salvation of all humanity. Humanity can also participate in God’s saving work through theosis; becoming holy by grace [and I would add . . . through the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells within us].
Of course, I am no theologian, and others more theologically astute may very well poke a million holes in what I have written above, but for me, these verses define the heart of God’s nature and the heart of every Christ-follower’s call: Self-emptying, self-giving love . . . the very mind of Christ.
“…The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame. The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.” – Henri Nouwen