So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:1-11 ESV
As a homeschooled student, I had the privilege (though I certainly didn’t consider it so at the time) of taking a virtual Greek college class in my junior year of high school. Little did I know that nearly two decades later, I would use what I learned in that class daily!
On a shelf right next to my desk, there’s a coffee mug with our church’s “#blesschesco” initiative emblazoned by the handle. Seeing that jet-black mug inspires two thoughts:
It’s a little ironic because the coffee I drink from that mug is always anything but black (gimme that hazelnut creamer!)
It’s empty, which can either be a great thing, or . . . not so great.
There’s a style of warm beverage mug I’m sure you’ve seen before - maybe you even possess one - where the label or design on the mug is heat-sensitive: if there’s a hot beverage in the mug, the label will appear at the level to which there is still liquid that reaches that level of the mug wall. Many of these mugs have a clever design on the outside, like the one that shows a battery gradually filling again as the delicious liquid is consumed. The mug’s messaging is both clever and oftentimes all too true - until this mug is empty, consider me, the drinker, empty (and, for your own benefit, don’t talk to me yet!)
The idea of being empty is one we often see in a negative light. An empty battery, an empty bank account, empty promises, an empty house . . . these are things we typically don’t want. However, this passage from the apostle Paul’s letter to the early church in Ephesus speaks about a different kind of empty - a good kind.
Philippians 2 is often referred to as the “kenosis” chapter. This Greek word (κένωσις) means “the act of emptying,” which refers to the work done by Jesus. By His submission to the will of His Father, Christ humbled Himself like no other because there is no other like Him. Just think the King of the universe, the One who sent stars spinning and painted ocean waves, the Author of DNA strands and the Creator of time - that God-King emptied Himself of all that glory, stepped down into our brokenness as a helpless baby, lived like us, and died like us. The highest of high kings died the lowest of low deaths, and it was all because of His love for us that The Jesus Storybook Bible so perfectly calls “never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever” love.
So . . . what should we do in response? This passage makes it clear: we ought to “take encouragement in Christ…by being of the same mind” as Jesus. In the NLT, verse 5 challenges us in this way:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
To put it plainly, we ought to empty ourselves in order that God would fill us with His Spirit. Out of that fullness then will overflow more and more of Him as we seek to spread the love of Christ in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and the whole world.