Have you witnessed the misapplication of Scripture by children?
As children squabble over who gets the first pick of seats in the van, an adult says, “Kids, the Bible says the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:16) Then the children proceed to squabble over who gets in last. Facepalm.
Similarly, we might read Philippians 2:2-8 and misapply the core concept of living in humility with one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus.
True humility is challenging to understand, let alone learn to authentically cultivate in real life. To help us stay away from misapplying humility, manipulating it into something it isn’t, or sidestepping it altogether, the apostle and preacher Paul points us to perfect humility lived out, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“[M]ake my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—even to death on a cross.”
It is no small charge for Christians to have the same thinking, the same love, being united in spirit, and intent on one purpose. The magnitude of this command underscores the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit living inside believers to empower and equip us to reflect the unity of the godhead as Father, Son, and Spirit.
As Christians, our utmost aim is to magnify Christ, but in living out this mission, differing theological positions arise.
Humility is not indifference to core doctrine for the sake of unity. Our belief in the gospel, the Trinity, and the authority of God’s Word are foundational tenets of our faith, separating Christianity from all other religions.
Instead, humility is considering the best of others, willingly overlooking minor theological issues in order to be unified in Christ.
What does this look like?
In short, Jesus.
Which is exactly why Paul points our gaze quickly to Christ as he discusses God’s command to live in humility with one another in His family.
Christ, who left the splendor of Glory
to put on flesh,
live among humanity,
and die a tortured death
for the joy set before Him of gaining us to be with Him for eternity,
This setting aside of Himself for an undeserving “another”,
and sacrificing Himself, even His will (Luke 22:42),
with utmost kindness and tenderness,
Applying this breathtaking humility while living in community with “one another in Jesus” is paramount in following Christ. While we stand united on foundational doctrines of our faith, humility compels us to extend grace to one another when we differ on minor theological issues, such as eschatology (end-times theology) or matters of eating and drinking.
We humbly acknowledge our salvation is due not to our intelligence or superior logical consistency, but always and only to the abundant grace and wisdom of Christ. We are the weak and foolish of this world (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) through whom He has chosen to showcase His redemptive grace. Our salvation and sanctification bring glory to God (not us!) as we come to know Him more deeply and reflect Him more clearly.
When we remember we are all equal in both sin and sonship, the necessity of humility becomes glaringly obvious.
As we together grow in our knowledge of and love for Christ, we also grow in our obedience to Him. John 14:15 explains that obedience is how we love God.
“If you love Me, you will keep my commands.”
Just as Christ humbled Himself through obedience to God (Philipians 2:8),
believers humble ourselves through obedience to Christ.
So as we “clothe ourselves in humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5), we seek to make much of Christ by submitting to Him in obedience and following His example by serving one another with humility, for God “gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)
Cultivating true humility comes from trusting Christ alone through His gospel, knowing His Word deeply (Colossians 3:16), and submitting to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit within us to make us like Christ (Romans 8:29).
Humility helps us recognize we don’t know all the answers,
but together, we can pursue the One who does. (Jeremiahs 33:3)
We can’t obey Him perfectly,
but together, He is building us to reflect Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
Humility first sprouts when we admit we are sinners in need of a Savior.
When we rightly understand our position in Christ,
we will live as humble servants,
dedicating our lives, thoughts, actions, and attitudes
to Him who gave His life for us;
the ultimate showcase of true humility.
As Christ gave Himself up for us, so are we to give ourselves up for one another.
For some believers throughout the world, humility might entail giving up their lives; for all believers, humility entails giving up our comfort and acceptance in this world by sharing the Gospel of Christ to those around us.
With peace and joy, let us submit to Christ and serve one another in love and humility to make much of Christ!
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