Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. These verses from Philippians give us very specific directions on how to live like Jesus.
LIVING A SELF-LESS LIFE
Philippians 2: 1-5 (MSG)
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:
- Agree with each other
- love each other
- be deep-spirited friends
- Don’t push your way to the front
- don’t sweet-talk your way to the top
- Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead
- Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage
- Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”
The letter to Philippians is one of Paul’s most personal letters. He wrote it while in prison, late in his missionary career. He had been actively involved in founding the church in Philippi, and the congregations regularly him with provided financial support. In addition, concerned about his situation, the Philippian church had sent support through Epaphroditus. Now Paul is sending Epaphroditus home with this joyful and grateful letter.
The crux of the letter is Paul’s understanding of spiritual formation: “becoming so single-mindedly focused on following Christ that one can’t help thinking like Christ, acting like Christ, feeling like Christ” (Evan B. Howard in The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible). Paul’s own life and his encouragement to others give us a taste of what a God-inhabited life looks like. In this passage he focuses on humility and putting others first, both of which would result in unity and fellowship. Paul gives us a powerful example of this life: “Christ lived a self-less, obedient life, and then died a selfless obedient death.” Christ emptied himself of his status in the Trinity in order to show us what it means to be fully human.
The Message’s version of this passage could not be clearer: having the mind of Christ means forgetting yourself and helping others. This week, practice humility of spirit:
♥ let others be right. Let go of your need to always have the last word or to show that you know more or better than your spouse, your child, your friend, your boss, etc.
♥ begin to look for someone who can be a “deep-spirited” friend. If you already have a such a friend, call or write or set up a time to visit him or her.
♥ allow others go ahead of you in lines or in traffic – without trash talk (verbal or mental) or disgusted body language.
♥ stop any flattery or manipulative techniques to win someone’s favor.
♥ stop claiming credit or exaggerating your importance in a task or decision. Let someone else shine.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There go the Grownups
To the office, To the store.
Subway rush, Traffic crush
Hurry, scurry, Worry, flurry
No wonder Grownups
Don’t grow up any more.
It takes a lot of slow
(By Eve Merriam)