Philippians 2 is one of many chapters in sacred Scripture that should make us freeze in awe. The Apostle Paul begins with a few words of instructions—words that, if we have “ears to hear,” will certainly convict. “Do nothing our of selfish ambition or conceit,” he says in verse 3, “but in humility consider others as more than important yourselves.” But he doesn’t stop there. “Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others” (v. 4).
If Paul left it at that, we would be thrown into despair, frustration, and helplessness. But he knows—just as is the case for him—that we’re not good enough, smart enough, or holy enough to carry out those commands perfectly. That’s why, in the next verse, he begins writing about the humility of Jesus. I could devote several articles to each passage of Scripture in the following verses, but let’s simply do an overview of what it meant for Jesus to be humble and then talk about what that means for us.
Though Jesus “existed in the form of God (v. 6)” he didn’t find it necessary to flaunt. In other words, Jesus was—and is—God. However, it wasn’t a part of his mission to go around telling everybody he was God incarnate. So, as the text says, he “emptied himself.” No, this doesn’t mean he ceased to be God. It simply means he shielded those around him from the glory he had with his Father before the foundation of the world (Jn. 17:5). He laid down his glory in order to show his humility. Astounding.
How did he empty himself, exactly? The text tells us: he became a servant by taking on human form. He was like us. And he showed the ultimate example of humility by “becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (v. 8).
If we read this chapter—definitely verses 5 through 11—and yawn, something is deeply wrong with us. This passage is mesmerizing and should not only lead to our humility, but also our worship. With that said, here’s the question we have before us. With understanding the humility of Jesus, how should that impact our interactions with the world and brothers and sisters in Christ?
Be humble in evangelism.
A proud evangelist is a failed evangelist. God has commissioned us to go out into the world and preach his gospel. If we aren’t humble in our evangelism, the gospel may be preached but our hearts aren’t in the right place and could cause issues with those who we preach to.
We must remember that we were once “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We were once enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). I know there’s been many conversations about what biblical empathy looks like, but it’s important for us to exercise empathy in evangelism. By that I mean only put yourself in the shoes of unbelievers. Understand that we were once in their position—unbelieving and hating God. There’s no excuse for it, but we can understand it.
Further, how can we not be humble in evangelism? God, in his sovereign mercy, chose to use us as vessels to proclaim his gospel. That is amazing! That truth right there ought to humble us.
Be humble in Christian disagreement.
This is where counting others more significant than ourselves really comes into play. Whether it’s with in-person conversations or online discussions, we would do well to be humble. Who is it that you’re talking to? Consider them more important than you. Look to their interests before your own. If we are following those commands, then Christian disagreement will always be godly, civil, and even edifying.
It’s when we lose sight of the exhortations in Philippians 2 that many Christians get themselves in trouble. This is why we see such slander, such vitriol, such bullying on social media these days. We become so focused with ourselves that we lose sight of other people.
When we fixate our gaze on the humility of Jesus, disagreement among fellow Christians becomes edifying. If we get distracted, that leads to division.
Friends, we follow a humble Savior. Let us always look to His humility and seek to emulate him.