HOPE in the Freeze: Thanksgiving
As the child of a single mom, I can attest to lean times. Treats were scant; candy a rare treasure to be savored. Perhaps that’s why I will never forget the time my sister and I received an enormous, cellophane-encased Easter basket, heavy with jelly beans, solid chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps and COVETED Cadbury eggs. The stuff eight-year-old dreams are made of! It was bestowed upon us by our new grandma who expected us to divide it evenly. So you can imagine my shock and disappointment when one morning I pulled the basket out from its hiding place to find it full, not of candy, but of empty wrappers. My older sister had eaten it all. I cried for the loss, for the injustice, and for the fact that I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t even tell my mom, but I vowed to never to let anything like that happen to me again.
This incident, and many similar ones endured as the runt of the family, fanned into flame a crusade for personal justice which plagued me well into adulthood. This self-protectiveness was like a tiny, but potent drop of poison, infecting every transaction, every promise, every relationship. My head was down, slumped in a defensive posture.
Read Philippians 2:5-11:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
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!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This beautiful piece of scripture is known as “The Christ Hymn.” In it Paul describes Christ’s powerful example of humility as he lowered himself from his rightful position of divine privilege and into the position of a slave. The phrase “made himself nothing” comes from the Greek word kenosis which means, “to empty oneself.” This is powerful imagery. Christ, in every way equal with God, emptied himself of this divine identity in the greatest of act of self-sacrifice any person has performed before or since. With his head up, he lived. With his head up, he gave. With his head up, he loved. With his head up, he healed. With his head up, he died on a cross, so that you and I could be brought into reconciliation with the God of the universe.
Jesus encased himself in flesh. He constrained himself: mind, body and spirit. His choice was to be obedient to pain-not just pain on the cross-but the pain of excruciating separation from the holy trinity. And Paul says we are to have this SAME mindset in our relationships. We must have our head’s up in sacrifice, not down in self-protection. James says it this way:
For jealousy and SELFISHNESS are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish-ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”James 3:14-16 (NLT)
Looking back through the years, I can see how those childish impulses robbed me of God’s goodness, robbed me of an ability to love and give. My defensiveness turned into ugly selfish-ambition. It’s horrifying, really. Jesus points the way to a different way of living. Here are a some next steps as we strive to follow his example, serving one another in love with our head’s up, not down:
- Take a moment to read James 3:15-18. What are the signposts of following the example of Christ? How can you see God’s wisdom in action in your home, work, and church relationships?
- Reflect: what triggers the impulse of self-protection in your life? Have you found yourself leaning into selfish-ambition or an “I’m going to get MINE” attitude? Repent.
- Memorize Philippians 2:5-11 (Suggestion: tape the scripture on a bathroom mirror or the dashboard of your vehicle and read it throughout the week)
- Practice sacrifice: how might you empty yourself for the sake of another this week? Is there a particular person you need to yield to right now?