15 September 2014

Philippians 2:6-11

"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." (vv. 5-7)


When we set ourselves a goal we are often advised to aim high, to set ourselves the highest standard. It's a good way of making sure we do our very best. But suppose our aim is to encourage and enable others to be the best they can, against daunting odds, rather than to surpass our own previous best? Then, surely, is the time for a different strategy, one that might seem, on the face of it, to be perverse.

Paul is writing about a different view of people, one that sees the person doing the washing up as no less important than the distinguished guest. Maybe, if you happen to be the distinguished guest, it means rolling up your own sleeves and joining in. However distinguished, you are nonetheless one of God's people and, like Jesus, you come as a servant.

Paul's account of Jesus' strategy in addressing the challenge of a dysfunctional humanity seems to be to aim low, to get alongside humanity and share its worst miseries rather than glorying in his own celebrity status. Jesus of Nazareth set his sights lower and lower, because only in that way could his message of the universal love of God carry any conviction in a divided and dysfunctional world. Only by identifying himself totally with humanity, with us, could he get to the heart of the human condition. Only as we absorb that mindset and make it our own, can we become fully involved in the mission of Jesus.

To Ponder

  • What barriers have others crossed in order to communicate God's love to us?
  • What apparently insuperable barriers are you prepared to cross in order to share God's love?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.