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. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Divisiveness, controversy, and animosity were not invented in the year 2020. If we can take anything from the Epistles, it is that being church together was no easier back then than it is today. We sure seem to struggle with the same issues. It says something about the power of scripture, that no matter how many times we might hear a passage like this one from Philippians, we will always hear something in a new way, or we are reminded of something we forgot. There is a reason Paul seems to follow a theme in many of his letters. The same issues keep coming up. And Paul’s response is not just about individual belief, but most often a call to communal action. It is not just that we are to find solace and comfort in our personal belief in Jesus the Christ. We are to live and enact these beliefs with one another, humbly putting Christ and the needs of others above our own.
When is the last time you humbled yourself? Humbling yourself is not the same as being humbled. Being humbled by another person or an event is sometimes necessary, but it is not the same thing as the act of humbling oneself. I believe many Americans have an unhealthy relationship with humility, but some of that is not our own fault. It is a confusing word and we do not find the healthiest examples to follow. There are those in the world who have manipulated others under the guise of humility. Sometimes, someone may think they are humbling themselves, but they are actually being humbled by another person’s abuse of power. Feeling small and unworthy is not the same as humbling yourself. Ultimately, the call to humble ourselves is about letting God be God. It is an opportunity to remember who and whose we are. When we humble ourselves for the sake of our neighbor, we are remembering our connectedness to one another as part of God’s good creation.
This week, reflect on humility. How do you see it played out in community? In what ways would humility strengthen your community? Where do you see humility exploited or abused? Define for yourself healthy, life-giving humility. List any examples of humility and people who exemplify humility that you can think of. Reflect on a time you humbled yourself this week. When you humbled yourself, what happened? What did you notice about your words, actions, and posture? How did your intention change, or not? What happened to how you received what was going on around you?
Let us pray...
Creator God, All that we have is because you are who you are. Forgive us for the times we forget that you are God and we are not. Energize us to live an active love that unites rather than divides. Remind us of the ways we need each other and most importantly, you. Lead us to take up our cross and follow you. Amen.