God's humility and ours
Philippians 2:6-11 is a really awesome passage. Awesome both in the contemporary sense: really, really, really great! and in the the archaic sense: so great it frightens me. This was my favorite passage in my twenties. I loved the image of Jesus giving up his equality with God, lowering himself to the lowest depth made himself nothing ... humbled himself by becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross And then God the Father's response, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. In my mind I saw this wondrous cycle, Jesus giving up and then the Father exalting him.
But then I realized how awesome in the archaic sense it was. If Jesus is so committed to humbling himself, making himself nothing, that means we his followers have to do the same. And that could be really hard! Maybe I should make my favorite verse Come to me all who are weary, I will give you rest or The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. I was reminded of it this last week. First, that great meditation by Jon Bloom on John the Baptist's humility. "John had blazed across Judea like a shooting star, the first real prophet in Israel for four centuries. John’s disciples had been right in the middle of this remarkable move of God. Then abruptly, they weren’t." I thought it was a great exhortation for Christian leaders, don't think of yourselves as irreplaceable. Safe enough for me to cite, I'm a follower, not a leader
The next day I saw an article by Scott Rodin echoing the same thoughts – and citing Phil 2:7, how Jesus made himself nothing, taking the role of a servant. I've been pondering this, and was further struck by what Gordon Fee writes in a commentary on Philippians "The concern is with divine selflessness: God is not an acquisitive being, grasping and seizing, but self-giving for the sake of others." The awesomeness of God's selflessness awes me anew, and I realize this is a principle for all believers. If God is selfless, and salvation is becoming like God, we must then become selfless, and it is only our own folly or pride or brokenness that makes this feel frightening to us.
Yes, this is archaic awesomeness, terrifying in its implications, but we can and ought to have faith in the faithful God of the New Covenant, who is more committed to making us who we ought to be than we are ourselves.