I will never forget my experience on move-in day the first year of university. A whirlwind emotional day culminated in a special chapel service with the university president. This man was also a respected teacher and theologian, and my parents were excited to hear this “giant of the faith” speak, and perhaps even shake his hand.
But at the end of the president’s speech, he did something very unusual for someone of his status.
He asked all the first-year students to come to the front of the chapel and kneel to receive a blessing. Then this man, university president and stately Christian leader, dressed in a formal suit and just over 70 years old, postured himself in a kneeling position, almost doubled over to the ground, and lifted two outstretched hands over the students to pray for us.
It was shocking to see this older, well-respected leader taking such a vulnerable and uncomfortable position on behalf of a group of young students. His posture was one of humility.
In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul exhorts followers of Christ to be humble and “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). For many of us, we are familiar with the picture of Jesus as a humble servant—meek, mild, and gentle. But it is important not to forget how counter-cultural this humility really is in a world which prizes achievement, social status, and wealth.
Paul told the Philippians that though Jesus was in nature God, He did not think of equality with God as something to be grasped and held tightly. Instead, Jesus “made himself nothing”—instead of using those divine privileges for His own gain, Jesus gave up everything to meet us in our need (v. 7). He also “took the very nature of a servant” (v. 7) rather than the position of a king, which would have been His rightful place.
He chose to be born as a human being, accepting all of the limitations and constraints of a human body, bound by time and space, and wrapped up in imperfect skin. Finally, Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (v. 8). He submitted to God’s good design even though it caused Him suffering and humiliation.
When Paul encourages Christians to “have the same mindset” as Jesus (v. 5), it can be difficult and uncomfortable. But it is also freeing. When we adopt an attitude of humility, we can step out of the race for power, glory, and wealth to which the world calls us. We can admit that we are limited, but there is One who is unlimited. We are free to submit to God’s plan, even if it doesn’t make sense to the world around us. It also changes how we relate to the other members of God’s family—the church. Living from a posture of humility enables us to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
So how do we mimic the humble posture of Jesus in our everyday lives? Of course, we are likely not called to bear a literal cross. But we can seek ways to use our privileges to bless others instead of using them for our own gain. We can choose the lesser place instead of pursuing glory. We can respect the limits of our human flesh instead of trying to appear superhuman in our efforts. And we can humbly receive what God has given us as part of His good design.
—By Karen Pimpo, USA
Questions for reflection
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