"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Charles Swindoll is perhaps most quoted for his statements about attitude. At the end of the day, it is our one choice in everchanging circumstances, the one string upon which we play the melody and harmony of our lives. In this choice is the power to set in motion a domino affect of emotions and actions. Attitude (including our perceptions of things) influences feelings, reactions, responses and behaviors more than the situations we face (with a few notable and tragic exceptions). Even then, how we play the hand we are dealt defines us, not the hand itself.

So when Paul wrote to the Philippians, he knew he was going to lay a big expectation at their doorstep. Rather than diving in with both feet, he first reminded them of his love for them, his appreciation of their partnership with him, and his faith that God would complete them. He went on to anchor them anew in the encouragement, compassion, tenderness and unity of living together in Christ. Then he presented the big expectation:

Your attitude shoiuld be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5

I have to admit that I am used to reading this verse. It no longer shocks me. I can't remember whether it ever did. Maybe in my youth, my understanding of the gap between my attitude and that of Christ was limited. But, as I take this passage phrase by phrase, allowing the Holy Spirit to carry the verses deep into my heart, I am painfully aware that to me, the command (more specifically the expectation) seems impossible to me now.

The beautiful section that follows is poetic in nature, generally believed to be a hymn to Christ in the early church. It is worth savoring, and I hope to do so in these posts in the weeks to come. Suffice it to say, at this juncture, the passage describes the self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, who willingly left the throne next to God the Father and came to dwell among us. His perfect life was then given on our behalf as he humbled and emptied himself in obedience to the Father. Because of this obedience on his part, and his willingness to do whatever was needed, ultimately all creation will bow before him.

Paul certainly was a man well acquainted with human nature. The letter to the Romans especially makes it clear that in our nature, we are fallen. Even when we know the right thing to do, we cannot (or do not) seem to do it consistently (Romans 7). So, I am surprised when he makes such sweeping statements as: put sin to death; love your wife as Christ loves the church; have the same attitude  as Jesus. Talk about your high expectations. Potentially, these commands are discouraging--who can do them?

Indeed we would find ourselves in a hopeless situation were it not for the persistent and patient work of God in us. It is he who will complete in us the good work he has started (1:6). As he does, we are to fix our eyes on the One we follow. If God the Son did not see himself as being too good to do anything and everything God asked of him for the benefit of people, who are we to do otherwise? This is a verse to aspire to. It lays before us the ideal of being transformed into the image of Jesus. As we aspire, let's check our attitudes frequently.

The attitude check might sound something like this:
Is my attitude right now like the self-sacrificial attitude of Christ?

And the appropriate response--
God help me to love you and others more fully, so that my attitudes and actions more closely resemble those of Jesus.


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