A Community of Contrast | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/8

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.

Philippians 2:1-11

Christians are meant to be different from the world. Although we live in the world, we are not of the world (Jn. 15.19), and so we are likened to a diaspora (Jas. 1.1; 1 Pet. 1.1) or described as aliens and exiles (1 Pet. 2.11) in the world. However, we tend of think of this difference from the world in terms of individual morality. In a negative sense, it means not doing the sinful works which are par for the course in the world. In a positive sense, it means engaging in acts of charity in the world. So, to be different is to be moral individuals.

Certainly, individual morality is an important aspect of being Christian, but this is only half the picture. The metaphor of diaspora used by James and Peter alludes to the communal nature of the Christian faith, indicating that the context of being moral individuals is a life lived in community. Jesus called his disciples to be a people characterized by love: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15.12). Now, love is not an act that can be fulfilled in seclusion, but it must be fulfilled in relation to another person. So in giving his great commandment to us, Jesus is actually telling us to make a community in which people relate to one another in love. Being part of this community is what makes us different from the world.

What does love look like in this community? In our passage today, Paul instructs the Philippians to have the same mind as Jesus before going on to quote a hymn. This hymn refers to Jesus as having the same glory as God, but Jesus did not regard this glory as something to be embraced and exploited. Instead, he poured himself out and took the form of a slave. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves constituted the lowest class in society and were despised. No sane person would choose to be a slave because it was an extreme abasement. Yet, Jesus relinquished his divine glory to become one. As slave, he obediently served God the Father, even to his death on the cross.

Paul’s purpose of quoting this hymn was to show the Philippians how radically different their community ought to be in contrast to the world around them. Unlike the people of the world, they were not to regard themselves highly or do things for their own selfish interests or benefits. On the contrary, they were to humble themselves and seek the good of others in their community. If the Son of God could give up his glory to take on humanity to suffer and die, then the Philippians must also embody this attitude in their community as the body of Christ. It’s in such communities of radical sacrificial love that Christian talk of being different from the world find its ultimate manifestation. May the Spirit of Christ help us learn self-abnegation and give the church a unity in love.

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