Each morning at New word Alive the adult team meet for prayer. This morning Wallace Benn read from Philippians 2. It set me thinking …
Verses 6-11 are the great hymn of praise to Christ for his humiliation and exaltation. But Paul’s application is very down to earth: ‘do all things without grumbling or complaining’ (v. 14). I was struck that my complaining, my pride, my ego all reflect an assumption that I am centre stage. I have, as it were, constructed a stage, demanded the spot light be put on me and I cry out, ‘Look at me’ (see verses 1-4). But this is complete madness. It is insanity. It is stupidity of cosmic proportions. Because Jesus is centre stage. His cross was planned from all eternity. The universe, billions of light years across, was constructed as a fitting stage for the cross. His cross is beautiful, astonishing, glorious, powerful. That the One who shared the divine glory should leave that behind to become a servant, to be obedient to death, even death on a cross. Amazing. The exaltation of the glory by the Father, giving him a name above all names (verses 9-11) – that is a worthy response to the cross.
But here am I saying, ‘Look at me, look at me. I’m at the centre. Make the world work for me.’ It is madness, absolute madness.
Verse 5 has caused some exegetically debate. The NIV translates it something like (I don’t have my NIV with me so this is from memory) ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who …’ In other words, we are to follow the example of Jesus. But the ESV translates it ‘have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ In other words, our attitude is rooted not in the example of Christ (of course, that’s taught in plenty of other places in the New Testament), but our attitude is rooted in our being in Christ. I’ve been persuaded by the exegetical reason for translating the ESV way. It also helps integrate verses 9-11 – which are not an exmaple we are to follow. Seeing the issue as ‘who is centre stage’ helps see how this reading of verse 5 fits the wider context. Verses 1-4 and 14-15 are about not being centre stage. ‘Don’t look to your own interests …’ and so on. Why should I relinquish centre stage? Because the spotlight should be on Jesus – exalted-humbled-exalted.