Observations on Life, Faith, Media & Technology

Let This Mind Be in You

One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is found in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Cross The book of Philippians is special because of who wrote it, who it was written to, why it was written, and where the author was when he wrote it. 

The book was written by Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles who took the gospel to the world.  It was written to the church at Philippi to thank them for a financial gift brought to Paul from the church.  Paul had a very special place in his heart for the Philippian church, and the warm, loving words of the letter reflect this. It was written from a Roman jail cell about ten years after Paul first preached in Philippi.  It was on that visit that Lydia was saved and, after an earthquake freed the prisoners, but none fled, the Philippian jailer and his family came to know Christ.

Now Paul is Nero’s prisoner in Rome, confined in a Roman prison under difficult circumstances. Yet this letter brims with joy, assurance and victory.  The second chapter contains what scholars tell us is probably the earliest recorded Christian hymn, and a passionate plea from Paul for us to imitate the loving and humble spirit of our Lord Jesus.

The word that is translated “mind” in the Bible sometimes refers to our thinking process, but most often it refers not to the process but to what we are thinking – to our attitude.  As early as the book of Proverbs, we are told “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). In this passage, Paul says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)  The New International version says it this way: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  The attitude of Jesus was that of humility and love.  It was His humility that allowed Him – the sinless Son of God – to take on the role of a servant, and even to die a humiliating death at the hands of men.

We can infer from Paul’s letter that the Philippian church was a loving, caring group of believers.  We can also infer from the lack of doctrinal correction in the letter that they had their act together theologically as well.  Yet Paul made it a point to say this to them in his letter:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (NLT)

Verses 5-11 contain the lyrics to that early hymn of the church.  The Message translates the hymn this way:

Though He was God,
He did not
think of equality with God as something to cling to
Instead, He gave up his divine privileges
He took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being
When He appeared in human form,

He humbled himself in obedience to God
And died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
And gave him the name above all other names,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father!

For over two thousand years, the followers of Jesus have sung these words in many different languages and to many different tunes.  Yet the message is the same: Because of His obedience and humility, God has given to Jesus a name that is above every name, and everyone in heaven and on earth will one day bow and acknowledge that He is Lord and Christ.

And in that second chapter of Philippians, Paul tells us that we need to have the same humility, the same love, the same compassion, and the same obedience as Jesus as we relate to each other in the family of God, and as we reach out to the world around us to tell them the good news of the Gospel.  How sad it is to think that for the most part the world views the followers of Jesus today as mean spirited and judgemental!  It’s even sadder to realize that all too often that is a reputation that we deserve because we fail to operate in the love and humility of the One that we follow.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!

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