Saturday, September 15, 2012

Becoming Nothing

I've heard myself say that I want to be like Christ.  The way those words roll easily off my tongue is indicative of the fact that, whatever my vague picture of being like Christ might look like, I'm probably thinking it's something I can pull off without breaking much of a sweat.  If I'm honest, my concept of becoming more like Christ probably amounts to not much more than becoming a nicer person.

Put that way, it sounds like an easily forgotten New Years resolution.  And it is.

Poking around in the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian followers of Jesus, I start to feel like my stated desire to be more like Christ is actually a bit more like Peter's naive assertions that he would never deny his Master.  Words spoken in good faith...he simply did not know what he was talking about.  And when I say that I want to be like Christ, I've not really grasped what is going to be required of me.

But fortunately the Apostle Paul puts the cookies on the lower shelf in Philippians 2.  With words inspired by the Creator, he tells me that my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  He then goes on to describe Jesus' attitude for me very clearly.  And when I look at the description of what will actually be required of me to be like Christ I realize that I've had no clue what I've been talking about.  My words have been empty and hollow.  Like Peter, while my Master is laying down his life, I'm diligently trying to preserve my own, all the while thinking that I'm doing the right thing.

I don't come close to being like Christ because I've underestimated how different this Christ is from me and my culture.

Here's just one item from Paul's description of Christ: he tells us that Jesus

made himself nothing

It's one thing to find yourself in lowly circumstances due to events beyond your control, or to end up in that spot as a consequence of your own actions--both of which most of us have probably experienced.  Having been taken lower, it's not uncommon for Jesus' followers to find the good in the humility of a downgraded place in life.

But if we want to have the same attitude as that of Christ, we are instructed to follow his example and

make ourselves nothing

This is another thing entirely.  This means I am to actively seek the lower state...get there under my own power.  Dude, that's really, really hard.  I can't remember ever doing that.  In a world where doing what's right for yourself is not only the norm, it is a noble and honored virtue, the concept of making intentional choices to go the other direction is beyond foreign.

And yet, there's this glimmer of the hint of tremendous treasure, hidden and waiting for the one who is willing to step off the path and actually try to be like Christ making himself nothing.


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