This last week's message was on the 6th prayer in the series "Dear Father... Pastoral Prayers for Mercy Hill" and it was the prayer of humility:
Dear Father, we pray this morning that we would turn away from spiritual pride. That we would be convinced of the destructive nature of arrogance in the heart of the believer and the life of the Church. May the image of Christ's humble Gospel inspire us daily to emulate his service and sacrifice. Father, may our deepening love for Christ produce a true love for others.
As we were studing the foundational importance of humility in the life of the believer and community of Christ that is expressed in Philippians 2 I was struck by Paul's emphasis on the depths of Christ's example of humility.
When you look at verses 1-4 Paul aggresively is calling the church to unity. He says if you have "any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy," then be unified. He is essentially saying if you get this "Christian thing" at all, be unified. Now, when you look at the state of most churches in this day and age, with the commonality of division and politics, you are immediately struck with what a large challenge this calling is for us as Christ followers. But as is often the case, Paul provides the means by which this is acheived; humility through a Gospel call that empowers us.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Paul is saying look to the example of Christ's Gospel humility, be conformed to that image and the church will find unity. But look at the intensity of humility to which we are called; "He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, EVEN DEATH ON A CROSS." It's like humility that causes death isnt enough, he has to remind us that it was a death on the cross. For many of us, 2000 years removed from the ancient image of the cross, we might not understand the significance of that emphasis but I believe Paul is trying to call the church to a humility that is so counter to our humanity. You see, Paul is emphasizing the unfair brutality of Christ's humbling. A death on the cross was reserved for criminals, for those who's punishement was well deserved. It was brutal and painful and was meant for those who earned it. Christ humbled himself, preferred others, sacrificed his rights even when he didnt deserve it, even when they didnt earn it.
I can't tell you how many times I have been called into the middle of disputes between brothers and sisters in Christ and heard the defense, "I didnt deserve to be treated that way. I was nice and generous and he took advantage and mistreated me. He's the one at fault not me!" We as human beings, especially as Americans, are great defenders of our personal rights, advocates of personal fairness but when we are only willing to reconcile, to exercise humility, to prefer others when it fits into our sense of justice we will not find the unity to which Paul is calling us.
May we be conformed to the image of a humbled Christ, even Christ on the cross.