September 9, 2018
“Have this mind among you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
We’re celebrating leadership today, as we ordain and install our church leaders. And as we do, we recognize that we follow the leadership of Jesus Christ, who was, as Paul says, equal to God, but who gave that up, and “took the form of a servant.” We who lead, lead with his humility, his love, his servant-hood, “having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.” I hope we see that as a tall order! Because it is! But it is what we are called to do and to be.
So, how do we do that? That’s what I want us to think about today. How do we have “the mind of Christ?” Do we just force ourselves to change our ways of thinking? Do we keep it up here “in our heads,” and think about how Jesus loved and who he loved, and strive to do the same? Is that possible? Can we even hope to change the way we think, and the way we love one another? Were do we start?
I was reading something the other day that I think gave some good insight on this. It said, “Our thoughts can often follow from our actions.” In other words, it is possible to act in a loving way toward someone else, even though we don’t “feel like it.” And when we do, two things will happen. One, that person will receive the effects of our loving actions. And two, those acts of love will change our thoughts.
Have you ever considered that? The way we act toward another person changes them, and it changes our thoughts toward them! Oh, and by the way, the same is also true in the negative. If we act in an unloving, uncaring, disrespectful way towards someone, they will feel the effects of that, too! And if do that too often, will not our thoughts toward that person grow more negative and even more hostile?
So, if we act in ways that Paul is describing here, if we indeed “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than ourselves, if we look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others,” we will begin to think in such ways. That’s what Paul is saying here. How we act affects how we think. And, if we do those things it will then follow that we will begin to “have among us the mind which is in Christ Jesus.”
Do you see that? I think that’s a huge part of this passage. I think Paul is trying desperately to get the people to understand that! As the old adage says, “Actions speak louder than words.” But Paul would go even further and tell us that “Actions also can also change our thinking.”
I know in the past, I’ve challenged you to consider the letters WWJT – “What Would Jesus Think?” The well known expression is “WWJD” – “What would Jesus do.” But I asked you before to consider taking that to what I said was the “next level.” I challenged you to try to think like Jesus. However, the more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve been thinking that WWJD often does come first, but then it leads to WWJT. What we do leads to what we think. Our actions influence our thoughts.
Think about that! Our actions influence our thoughts. Think about your actions towards other people. And try to imagine, “What would our world be like if more people understood this, if people acted like they loved each other, if people acted like they cared for the poor and disenfranchised, if they put aside their feelings and acted without prejudice? What would that look like? That’s a tough one, because as I’ve said before, we live in a world where people tend to “live by their feelings!” And then they think that’s a good thing! What would it be like if more people started with their actions? What would it be like if they chose to act in a loving way toward others?
Have you seen the movie “42”? It’s the story of Jackie Robinson, and if you haven’t seen it, you should! It’s an amazing movie! And as much as I love “Star Wars,” I would say that Harrison Ford’s role in that movie was his best ever! He played Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the man who was responsible for bringing Jackie Robinson into major league baseball.
As I watched that movie, I found it hard to imagine the difficulties Jackie Robinson went through breaking into baseball. He was threatened. He was verbally abused. He was hit by pitches. (With no batting helmet!) He was ordered off the playing field. His family was threatened! But in the movie, one of his biggest public “antagonists” was Ben Chapman, the manager of (unfortunately) the Philadelphia Phillies. Chapman taunted him mercilessly and cruelly on the field! (That was hard to watch!)
Well, at one point, the owner of the Phillies called Chapman into his office and told him to stop! He “read him the riot act!” So in the next scene, Branch Rickey sent word to Jackie Robinson in the locker room, saying that Ben Chapman wanted meet him, to apologize. Robinson said to the messenger, “He hasn’t changed!” And the messenger said, “Mr. Rickey says that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it looks like he’s changed!”
That’s an amazing thought! No matter what our feelings toward another person might be, if we act in loving ways toward them, it will eventually change a lot of things – including our hearts. And that will change the kind of people we are!
Paul said, “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Does that mean we feel like doing those things? In a big way, what matters is that we look like we do. And that changes us! Notice, Paul didn’t say, “Get your mind and your heart right, so you will then do those things.” He was saying “Do these things, and that will help get your mind and your heart right!”
Did you ever think about this before? I’ve never heard it put in quite this way, but it makes perfect sense to me. It’s helped to clarify how thoughts and actions relate to each other. It’s made me think about my actions toward others, what they might have been, and what they could be. It’s made me think about my choice to love others.
Well, you leaders, Jesus calls us as leaders to do just that! That’s the example we are called to set for one another. So, please! All the rest of you! Pray for all of your leaders, including me, that we might have the strength to be like Christ Jesus, so that we might have the mind of Christ, as we lead all of you to have the mind of Christ!
Eternal God, who once loved us even though we didn’t deserve it. Help us to choose the ways of love in our lives. Help us to choose to reach out, to set aside feelings, and to love as you loved us. Continue to change our hearts and our lives, that we may have the mind of Christ. For we pray in his name, Amen.