In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
(Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-8)
You’ve no doubt noticed that the verses above are set in a form that lets you know they are poetry. Most scholars believe that Paul is here quoting a hymn or poem of early creation by Christians, whether by Paul or someone else. But Paul is using this hymn to teach the Philippians something powerful about the building blocks of unity. Instead of selfish ambition or empty conceit, Jesus displayed humility of mind when he considered us more important than himself and gave thought not only to his own needs but to our needs. He is the perfect illustration of employing the building blocks of unity.
Jesus had a right, so to speak, to be selfish and self-centered in his agenda. He exists in the very nature of God. No one is more important to our universe than God. But rather than greedily or selfishly grasping on to his right to display His royal glory, he “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” He had the right to stay in heaven and receive the praise and honor due him, but he exchanged that for something that would meet our needs.
He made himself nothing, a servant, a human. His humanity shielded us from seeing his other nature. He bore two natures now, divine and human (he could not give up his deity), but the only characteristics he displayed were those of his human nature. He committed himself to living just as we have to live, with all our limitations but also with the availability of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. But this meant that no one would give him any special recognition as God. His body would be subject to pain. He would be subject to death.
Here is where his second humbling took place. He not only humbled himself by taking on human nature and living out of that nature only, but he submitted himself to the most humiliating form of death in his day, the torturous death of a criminal at the hands of the Romans — crucifixion.
Why did he do it? Because we needed him to do it. Though we are not more important than he is, he considered us more important than himself. Though his needs were real, our needs mattered to him. Fixing his eyes on the goal of rescuing us by his sacrifice, he made the good news, the gospel, possible. He preached it with his own atoning death so we could preach it as those whose sins were atoned for. Now the gospel and its progress should be at the forefront of our endeavors. Nothing is more important than reaching those who do not know Him and encouraging those who do to stay in the fight.
Can we be like Jesus? We must be!