Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
Paul has been urging the Philippians to be humble towards one another and to live for others not for self. The supreme example of this was Jesus. His incarnation, life, and death demonstrated His love for God and His love for people. He lived by example, showing us how to be humble.
In our day people demand their rights. If we suspect that our rights have been even the slightest bit violated we run to a lawyer or social media. We demand to be treated “fairly”. All that matters is us. Self is supreme. Albert Camus once said “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” This describes our world precisely. We chase after our own pleasure at the expense of those around us.
By contrast, Jesus did not put Himself first. He was God but for the sake of others temporarily gave up His position in heaven and became one of His own creations – a human being. He didn’t demand (“grasp”) His right to stay in heaven, although He certainly could have. He didn’t complain that it wasn’t fair for Him to have to “slum it” on earth and get nailed to a cross for sins He didn’t commit.
The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself [Mark 12:28-31]. Jesus demonstrated both of these by leaving heaven at God’s command (i.e. obedience) and by dying a horrible death on cross in our place.
The “fair” thing would be for each of us to pay the penalty for our own sins. But that would mean each of us would be eternally separated from God. While fair, that would not be what God wants. So He did the unfair thing. God the Father sent His Son to die in our place. And the Son obeyed.
Crucifixion was a form of Roman capital punishment reserved for the worst of criminals. Jesus was completely innocent of the charges against Him. Yet He willingly went to the cross because it was the only way to free us from the penalty of our sins. The second person in the Trinity – the Son – went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows not because He had anything to gain from doing so. He didn’t. He did it because we had everything to gain by His actions.
We are helpless to save ourselves so He did it for us. He put our welfare before His own rights. That is the definition of humility.
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