Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Christ emptied himself, or as the New International Version renders it, “made himself nothing”, taking on the nature of a servant. Christ became human, became what we are, so that from the saying of old, we may be what he is, or be like him.
And that’s the crux of the matter in the Philippians passage. Yes, Philippians 2:5-11 is a great Christological passage and poem, most likely a hymn of the early church. But one must read it in context, seeing that the first four verses of this chapter, what precedes it most certainly shows that Christ in his incarnation and obedience to the point even of death on a cross, is to be our pattern for living. We in Jesus are to humble ourselves in that way. With reference to our relationships with each other.
I tend not to think, right or wrong. that the deadly sin of pride and perhaps a form of pride, vain-glory are troubling and sticking points with me. However when pride (and/or vain-glory) rears its ugly head, then I am aghast because I hate it, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. In fact that is the very reason God may let me struggle with it for a season, so I can catch a small glimpse of just how ugly it is, and just how helpless I am to do anything about it myself.
But God will do that work, the work to help us humble ourselves, even as Christ did. And this happens, according to the Philippians passage, in relationships. We are to do this, indeed become this within the context of our relationships with others in Jesus. This will take time, it is indeed something we are to do, but something we can’t do apart from God’s ongoing work of grace. We are told immediately after this to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in us so that we will choose to do his good will. And as we see further in that passage, as we follow God’s directives, we are in that way to be a light to the world, in and through Jesus.
Of course only Jesus was completely humble. We want to grow into more and more of that humility together in Jesus for the world.