If there is one thing I have learned in doing bible study, it is that verses MUST be read in context. You cannot just read a verse and take it as you want…there is a story and full meaning in the verses all around! I read verses 1-11 to get the full context. Here is The Message version:
He Took on the Status of a Slave
2 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
I think the heading of this section of scripture says it all, “He Took on the Status of a Slave”. Definition along with context make a big difference here, so let’s look up the biblical definition.
Jer. 2:14 (A.V.), but not there found in the original. In Rev. 18:13 the word “slaves” is the rendering of a Greek word meaning “bodies.” The Hebrew and Greek words for slave are usually rendered simply “servant,” “bondman,” or “bondservant.” Slavery as it existed under the Mosaic law has no modern parallel. That law did not originate but only regulated the already existing custom of slavery (Ex. 21:20, 21, 26, 27; Lev. 25:44-46; Josh. 9:6-27). The gospel in its spirit and genius is hostile to slavery in every form, which under its influence is gradually disappearing from among men. (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
God became human. He took on the very same form that you and I are. He experienced every emotion that we do, and lived among the least of us. I often stop to think of the time that Jesus lived. Such a different time and place. Jesus could have easily been born today…well, maybe. I wonder how much harder His message would have been to receive? Let’s look at some other observations about what these verses are telling us.
We are to agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. I cannot help but wonder what the world would be like if we all did this. Agreed without taking sides, loved beyond the physical appearance and befriended everyone without judgment. Stepped aside to allow others to go first, and helped others get ahead as we patiently wait our turn. To not want the advantage for ourselves, and to simply help others without expecting something in return.
Jesus did all that. And He came to show us how we are to live and treat others. To be caring and loving, helpful and compassionate, to lift up and encourage. We can never be as perfect as Jesus was, but if we realize how little we do, then leaning on God becomes that much easier knowing that with Him (and only Him) it’s all possible.
For me, I want to simply listen more. To take a step back from speaking and just listen to the words…without casting judgment. I want to see the spirit inside and not even care of the physical part. To except those I considered unacceptable, and to always take a step back allowing another to go first, without concern that they might get something I want. I want to help others without getting anything in return, except the pure joy that it brings. That’s what I want, but how do I get it? I believe it starts in prayer, and allowing God to guide instead of trying to do it on my own.
There’s a realization that I do not in any way have the strength to do this. I just don’t. I must lean on God and allow Him to do it through me. Leadership isn’t about power, and if I am to be a leader, then I must be the example for others to follow. And it can start with something as simple as a smile, a hello, holding back my words until I’ve thought of what I can say that would lift another up instead of bringing them down.
Dear Lord, You sent Jesus to be our leader, our example and show us how we are to live our life and how we are to treat others. Yet, I fall short everyday of coming close to being like that example. If only I would lean on You and realize that I am fooling myself in thinking that I can do this through me and me alone. Lord, if You are willing to trust me with leading some of Your sheep, I ask that You please convict me of my poor actions and remind me how I am to trust You. I wish to be a beacon of light for other to see, but if I’m only interested in how bright my light can be then I’ve blinded those who are trying to find You. Give me strength, Lord, to simply lead those You put on this path. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.