Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Close Identification Brings Fullness of Life (Philippians 2:5-8)

Here’s an interesting passage about Jesus from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:

            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,
                        being born in human likeness.
            And being found in human form,
                        he humbled himself
                        and became obedient to the point of death—
                        even death on a cross (2:5-8, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

We might summarize this passage by saying simply that Jesus, God’s second way of being god, didn’t cling to divinity as his sole way of being. Instead, for our sake, he also became a human being. That’s quite a step down from God. Not only that but, again for our benefit, he even accepted death by crucifixion. That’s an unimaginable step down even for us mere mortals.

When Paul and the other biblical witnesses speak of us as human beings, one aspect of our human way of being that they take for granted is this: we humans are sinners. That means we are not the radiant witnesses to the truth, freedom, love, and vitality of God that God created us to be. Instead of knowing his light, love, and life, we practice the opposing darkness and indifference and end up with too much despair and death.

Jesus didn’t want that for us. He didn’t want to leave us stuck in that dreadful way of living. To save us from all that, he identified with us. He identified with us so much that he even took our place in the cold darkness and gave us his place in God’s warm brightness. As Paul says in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (5:21).

Knowing we needed the vitality that only God could give, Jesus didn’t stay in Heaven and settle for mailing us a package. He didn’t even come to Earth but keep the tremendous advantages he had in Heaven. Instead, he abandoned every Heavenly advantage, came to our side, and wholly identified with us.

He wholly identified with us but he didn’t become identical to us. We insisted on being vitality-sucking parasites. He embraced more miserable conditions than we ever will, but not to become a parasite like the rest of us. We were trapped by the power of death. He took our place in its jaws and gave us his freedom for life.

Now he invites us Christians to share this gift of life with others. He wholly identified with us humans and, by doing so, brought life to us. Now he invites us Christians to wholly identify with others and, by doing so, bring life to them as well.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.