Humble AND ObedientFr. Barnabas Powell
“We are of one mind about this.” I heard his words and I understood each word and it’s meaning, but I had never heard this put this way before – “of one mind.” What did he mean? But, hey, I was a kid of 22 and the situation was such that I was hoping he meant we were in agreement. Too embarrassed to ask, I assumed (dangerous, I know) we were, in fact, agreeing to a course of action that would solve the problem before us and have use working together instead of against one another. My assumption was right. Yay me!
It’s amazing when a group of people have a “meeting of the minds.” Once that happens, anything the group has set its mind on is achievable. But how does a group of people reach this powerful moment of shared clarity and purpose? And, isn’t this how we, in the Church are suppose to be as the Body of Christ?
Look at our lesson today in Philippians 2:5-11:
BRETHREN, 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, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 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.
For years I thought I was suppose to have “the mind of Christ” by myself. Turns out it isn’t possible for one person to have “the mind of Christ” alone. And, isn’t it interesting that the Church has us read this on the Feast of the Dormition? The only way for us to have the “mind of Christ” is in the community of the Church. And what does St. Paul mean when he says “the mind of Christ?” Well, think about it for a minute. To have the “mind of Christ” is to think like Jesus thinks; reason like Jesus reasons; and make decisions like Jesus makes decisions. In other words, St. Paul is telling the Philippian Church and us that we are suppose to be so united with one another that we all help each other think like Jesus – to have the “mind of Christ.”
So, how does Jesus think?
First, Jesus knows Who He is but doesn’t demand What He deserves. Jesus Christ knew He was equal to the Father and that His unity with the Father in the Holy Trinity meant He and the Father were one. But, the Lord’s mission required Him to humble Himself and be obedient to the horrible death of the cross. The Lord knew that this obedience was necessary to set the universe right again and He willingly set His prerogatives aside to serve us. So, if we, in the Church (no one could ever hope to do this by himself) are to think like Jesus, that means we each set aside our demands for the common good of the Church. We “prefer” our brother, as St. Paul tells the Romans to do in Romans 12:10.
Next, Jesus thinks bigger than the temporary. The Lord could only face the pain and the terror of the cross if He was able to see past the pain to the gain. His joy at the wonderful outcome of destroying death by death strengthened Him to face His temporary challenges. So, we, as the Church, have to never allow temporary challenges to poison our fellowship. We have to think like Jesus when it comes to problems in the Church, and see past them to the purpose of the Church to make us “like Christ.”
Finally, Jesus enjoys the Father’s favor. The Lord’s obedience and vision means He recognizes that the glory as the Father’s Son is never diminished by His humility, and, not only that, but the Lord’s humility is turned into praise from “heaven and on earth and under the earth.” It’s the sad and divided mentality of everyone always trying to “have it my way” that wars against the whole Church holding the comprehensive and all consuming “mind of Christ” together and all of us benefiting from this sense of unity of purpose, motivation, and humble service.
Today, in your parish, do you help your parish have the “mind of Christ” in your choices, your motivations, and your service? Are you contributing to all of you collectively thinking like Jesus, or do you catch yourself insisting on your own way? If we are ever going to be Orthodox on Purpose, then we have to come to grips with the fact that we will never be that by ourselves. We need each other!
A blessed Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos to you all.