Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Philippians 2:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Imitating Christ’s Humility
2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Do you remember the WWJD craze? Those letters were on bumper stickers, bracelets, rings, t-shirts, and lots of other places. “WWJD—What would Jesus do?” It wasn’t anything new. St. Francis of Assisi based his movement on such a question in the early thirteenth century. The Social Gospel movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century brought it back. When I was in high school, our youth group read Charles Sheldon’s book In His Steps written back during the height of the Social Gospel movement. That book had an impact on me. In it, the members of a church vow to ask the question What would Jesus do? before making any decision or taking any action, then answering that question to the best of their ability, and then letting that answer shape their decision or action. The novel is the story of the impact of that question in that community.
What would Jesus do? It is a great question to ask, but difficult to answer in some situations, isn’t it? How can we know what Jesus would do in every situation and in every circumstance?
Today we turn to a passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians in which Paul challenges us in a similar way. The Common English Bible translation translates Paul’s challenge as “Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” The New Revised Standard Version says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Let that admonition sink in for a moment: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
This has immense implications for the Christian spiritual life. But, how can we know the mind of Christ Jesus? Paul made it pretty clear what he meant. He wrote to the Philippians that they would make his joy complete if they had unity of mind, heart, and soul, humbly counting others more important than themselves and putting the interest of others ahead of their own—in a word, if they thought and acted as Jesus Christ did.
Paul went on to quote what scholars have recognized as a hymn possibly composed by Paul but just as likely a hymn actually sung in churches at this time, probably at baptism, for it suits the theme of dying and rising with Christ. Christ modeled servanthood, humility, and self-giving. He did not consider equality with God something selfishly to cling to, but rather he emptied himself, in his human state taking a servant’s form.
At the human level, that of real flesh and blood, he exemplified servanthood in its ultimate expression and compassion in its ultimate expression. Here, surely, we see how far love will go—trusting himself into God’s hands unreservedly, holding nothing back. His was a humble mind, a servant-minded mind, a God-enthralled mind.
Paul said that Christ emptied himself and we are to have that mind in us, as well. The gift of emptiness is the gift of fully recognizing who we are and our needs and being open to being filled with the Holy Spirit, the love of God. When my schedule is full, when I am full of self-importance, when I am full of self-sufficiency, when I am full of fear, when I am full of panic, when I am full of worry…when I am full of anything at all, then there is no space for something else.
Reformer Martin Luther said, “God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, God can make something out of us.” When we are humble, then we are empty of self and when we are empty of self, then we are nothing and when we are nothing, God can make something out of us.
When we are empty, then there is room for God. When we are empty, there is room for the Unexpected Love to come and fill us. When we are empty, then there is room for goodness, creativity, and love to flow through us.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster