Connections 03.24.2024: Hot Takes and Humility

Isaiah 50:4-10; Philippians 2:5-11

Social media loves a hot take—an idea that seems to go against the conventional wisdom or is a surprising point of view about some current event. Hot take posts generate clicks and comments because for every hot take there are plenty of people out there ready to fight about it! I don’t typically feel the need to broadcast every “hot take” that crosses my mind.

But I have a hot take about Philippians 2 that has been smoldering for a long time—twenty years or so, probably, since my time in seminary. Which, if I’m honest, is the first time I ever really noticed this text. Growing up in church—old-school evangelical churches, always—I was great at the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20). I was even pretty great with the Greatest Commandment (Mt 22:37-39). I was steady on the Roman Road and I aced the Top Ten (Commandments, that is). But all I ever learned of Philippians 2:5-11 was the few lines from the end that show up in the hymn, “He is Lord,” which includes our praise to Jesus, but not his example to us.

So here’s my hot take: I think Philippians 2 should be just as important to the church as the Greats (Commission and Commandment). I question whether we can do the Greats at all if we don’t start here, learning to have the mind of Christ: who could have exalted himself but didn’t, who was humble enough to put down the “form of God” and take on a human body, who served to the point of humiliation and death.

Many scholars believe Paul is not creating a new formula, but quoting a hymn or liturgy that would have been familiar to the Philippian church. He uses this lyric to remind and encourage them to do the hard real-life work he instructed in verses 1-4: to be of “one mind” as a congregation, to let go of “selfish ambition,” to “regard others as better than yourselves,” and to “look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.” Jesus showed them how to do it. This is Paul’s own hot take: that to be a body of believers, Christ’s body in the world, they need to be of the same mind that Jesus himself had. It’s not that hard to claim that Jesus was God in human form, that he willingly came to serve, that he humbled himself to die on a cross. It is much harder (another hot take!) to claim we believe we are supposed to do the same. It is much, much harder to act like it: to let go of selfishness. To think of others as better than self. To prioritize what is good for someone else over what is good for me.

And it is perhaps hardest of all to be of like mind with a whole congregation of folks who are doing the same thing.

Discussion

  • “The Philippians hymn,” as it is known, tells us a lot about Jesus. But the introduction that Paul gives in verse 5 (“let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”) says this description is also supposed to apply to us. How do you feel about that? Do you think it is possible? How would it transform our relationships, our churches, and our communities to follow Paul’s teaching and take on the mind of Christ?
  • If this text was indeed a familiar liturgy or hymn, these words would have been spoken or sung regularly by the early church. Think of Scriptures or songs you have memorized in worship. How do you feel when you speak or sing those words with a congregation? How does repeatedly speaking or singing them contribute to your belief in them and making choices based on them? How might it affect your congregation to claim and to regularly speak these words of service and humility?
  • It is hard enough for one person to practice having the mind of Christ. What are some obstacles that prevent whole congregations from following these teachings? Do you think it is realistic to have a body of believers who all uplift others over self? How would decisions be made?
  • The hymn can also tell us something else that is very important. If these verses describe the very mind and nature of Christ, how might they also help us to recognize someone who is at cross-purposes to Christ? Many people take seriously the presence of an “Antichrist” (as mentioned in 1 John 2:18, 22 and 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7). If Philippians 2:5-11 describes Christ, what would the characteristics of an “anti-Christ” be?
  • Jesus had every right to be counted as equal with God, but he did not see this equality as “something to be grasped”; he did not use his God-likeness to gain power. Are there people today who use things of God or the name of Christ to “grasp” at power?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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