Philippians 2: Others First
In reading and reflecting over this chapter, I was struck by how Paul’s words of encouragement and instruction are interceded with reminders that the Lord is the source of everything we do. Let's bear this in mind as we explore Paul’s instructions, and the attitude with which he encourages us to abide by them.
'Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.'
Paul’s call to the church is firstly, not only to rejoice in His love that he lavishes over us, but to use this unity with Christ as a basis in which to pursue unity with others; to be a witness to others about what we feel, what we receive, and what we have come to know through having Jesus in our lives. This is the basis of humility. On reading these verses I felt optimistically invigorated to apply them more in my relationships with those around me but came to a halt when reading on and discovering that Paul’s call comes with an important and crucial pre-requisite; an attitude of humility.
'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves.'
If you are anything like me then you may find yourself struggling to grasp what an attitude of humility looks like, or wondering how you can cultivate a humble heart? It is here, in verse 5, that Paul’s Christ-centred approach to teaching becomes poignantly clear; showing love, tenderness, compassion and comfort to others with a heart full of humility is the fruit of a mindset which mirrors that of Christ. In other words, we transmit the blessings Paul talks of in verses 1-3 with a humble attitude by imitating Him who humbled himself first.
'He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, he humbled himself by being obedient to death- even death on the cross!'
Humility looks like Jesus. It looks like God lowering himself to nothing, to serve others before himself and to live a life of absolute obedience. In fact, Paul outlines in Galatians 5:6-18 that serving others is actually the fruit of living a life of freedom; indeed, serving others is how true freedom grows. And therefore, just as Jesus was exalted on high and in being so, glorified God as the Father, so we will we be placed on high and glorify our father when we humble ourselves before Him.
Paul culminates his teaching to the church in verses 12 and 14; always obey (vv12), work out your salvation in fear and trembling (vv12) and do everything without grumbling (vv14). Once again, Paul accompanies his teaching with a clear reminder that our works of faith come from God “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his purpose” (v13).
'So that you may become blameless and pure... in a crooked generation and you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.'
We are called to shine through our relationships, through our love for others, and wonder of Him; acknowledging that the source of our light is He whose word of life lives within us and who stands before us as the perfect example to follow, and the purest mindset to align ourselves to.
Paul follows his instructions by recalling the actions and attitudes of Timothy and Epaphroditus. They serve Paul before themselves, (vv21 and 30), they care about the welfare of the Philippians (vv20) and they show unwavering obedience (vv30). They are Paul’s words put into practise and a tangible example for us to follow as we seek to apply what Paul has taught us.
I pray that we may be girls who hold firm to the word of life, so that His light can humble our hearts and mould our relationships.
Originally from Devon, Hannah studies Italian and Spanish at Durham and is currently on her year abroad, previously in Bologna and now in Barcelona. She continues to be amazed at how language is no barrier for Christian girls to grow in faith together!