By Mike Dawson
Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church, Columbia
Focal Passage: Philippians 2:1-15
We’re studying Philippians, a wonderful ‘joy-book’ of the Bible. Written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, this letter expresses how Paul found joy in the midst of adversity.
A summary of chapter one might be ‘the difference between happiness and joy: Happiness depends on happenings. Joy depends on JESUS.’ That theme continues in chapter two to even greater depths.
Years ago, I coined a word for chapter two: “Othering.” But recently I Googled it and discovered it is a word, but with bad connotations.
It describes people who look down on anyone different from themselves, calling them “others” — thus “othering” anyone who’s not “us.” That’s the direct opposite of how I’m using the word. I mean by it “considering others above ourselves.”
We know that “mothering” is one of the world’s greatest loves, and “brothering” is another. “Othering” speaks of an even higher love because it describes the life of a Jesus-follower — and of Jesus Himself.
‘Othering,’ Part One, Philippians 2:1-4, the exhortation.
Paul exhorts all believers to practice ‘othering’ as a way of life. These verses describe the characteristics of all who live to serve others, an ‘anatomy’ of Jesus-followers:
— HEARTS that are loving (verse 1)
— SPIRITS that are like-minded (verse 2)
— MINDS that are lowly (verse 3)
— EYES that are looking out for others (verse 4)
‘Othering,’ Part Two, Philippians 2:5-11, the example.
The perfect pattern of how to look at and serve others is the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the verses that follow, Paul paints one of the grandest portraits of Jesus to be found in Scripture. I call this passage “Thinking like Jesus —Downsizing Upward.” Paul said “let this mind be in you” (verse 5). To do this, we think like Jesus did:
• Before … when He was GOD in Heaven (verses 5-6). Jesus was “UPWARD” when He “was with God,” and when He “was God.” (John 1:1) Being equal with God was not something Jesus grabbed hold of (verse 6); He was equal with God because He was God, from eternity past. An old Latin phrase, chiseled in marble, said of Jesus: “I am what I was — GOD. I am what I was not — MAN. I am now called both — GOD and MAN.”
• During … when He was MAN on earth (verses 7-8). Jesus was “DOWNSIZING” when He came “out of the ivory palaces, into a world of woe, Only His great eternal love made my Savior go.”
Jesus downsized His name (“no reputation”), His nature (“became a servant”) — although He was still GOD — His ‘looks’ (“in appearance as a man”), and His life (“became obedient to death on the cross”). So here’s the Gospel: Jesus became ‘like’ us so we could become like Him!
• After … when, as the GOD/MAN, He returned to Heaven, forever UPWARD (verses 9-11). Notice in these verses that His name and nature, His ‘looks’ and His life were all restored. This crucified, resurrected, ascended JESUS CHRIST … IS LORD!
Finally in verses 12-15 Paul calls us all to be like Jesus — in relation to God (verses 12-13), to each other (verse 14), and to a lost, dark world (verse 15). B&R — Dawson is pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church, Columbia, and also serves as transitional interim around the state.