Paul was writing to a group of people about how to treat the other people who called themselves followers of Jesus. He was pretty prescriptive. Life change is reflected less in our bold manifestos and more in our daily choices.
Paul sees them in his mind’s eye and says intentionally, willingly, defer to the well-being of the other person.
Don’t give them their way, necessarily, but don’t demand your way. Don’t be so committed to winning the argument that you don’t listen to the heart of the person. And even, to the pain that brought their heart to here. Because you love them and they love you.
When he wrote these words and they were first read to a group of people in the Roman colony of Philippi, most of the people in the room knew each other. Some of them were family. Some of them were the families of Roman transplants, others were the families of Jewish transplants, some of them were natives of Philippi.
Each of them had responded to the message of Jesus that says, “you can have healing in your relationship with God.”
And now they were in this incredibly weird family, coming from different values and traditions and practices.
Paul says, “Let’s start with what you have in common. Jesus Christ. If he changed you at all, if there is any core to what he did for you, make that be the focus, not your differences.”
And then Paul says, “Use his example.”
“In your relationships with one another,” he writes, “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
“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.”
Willingly give up the floor, willingly choose to help, willingly give up the position of power and move to a position of service BECAUSE AND WHEN it will help each other. It’s not very popular right now. But it’s as true as when Paul wrote. And as when Jesus offered himself.