I remember more than a few Sunday school lessons that contrasted various Greek words for love, like philios (fraternal love) and eros (romantic love), with agape, the love of Christian caring. Most of us can relate to all three types of love these words describe. Yet Paul offers us another Christlike action I would argue is worth emulating as a type of love: kenosis, or emptying and taking the form of a servant.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul uses the text of a hymn to urge his readers to have the same mind, the same outlook, as Christ. This way of living does not seek to further its own aims or to hype its own awesomeness. Instead, the way of Jesus is about giving ourselves away for the sake of love.
The self-emptying Paul describes can be a difficult idea to embrace. Does exalting servanthood lead to a distorted view of human worth? If we give ourselves away, do we negate the divine personhood gifted to us by God? It is a knotty question, but it helps to consider that Jesus does not erase his self-identity. He offers it, extends it as a gift, pours it as a libation. Perhaps in the pouring out we find that like the waters of abundant life, there is yet more love welling up to regenerate the love freely offered.
While most of us will never be faced with the choice to literally give our life as Jesus does on the cross, we have the opportunity to pour out our gifts, our faith, and our commitment in the same kind of humility shown by our Lord. That is a love worth naming, practicing, and making the goal of all we do.
Generous God, continue teaching us to love in more depth and breadth, so that we can have the mind of Christ as our goal. Amen.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 19:28-40. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
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