Tuesday, February 27, 2007

communal following of Christ

I like the way the TNIV renders Philippians 2:5: "In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:". This brings out the meaning of the Greek more clearly than most translations: This be thinking among you (plural) which also in Christ Jesus. Both contextually and in the verse itself, this is talking about a kind of communal following of Christ.

Most treatments of this passage I've either heard or read, from my memory, really don't grapple with this aspect much. Though it's at the heart of what Paul is talking about, here. Many get lost in the kenotic study of Christ. How did he empty himself, or make himself nothing? But we can easily lose sight of the intent of this passage.

First Paul is telling them that this special kind of community is to be different in relation to one another (verses 1-4). Then Paul presents Christ and his attitude of mind as being the supreme example or path they are to follow, in their relationships with one another (verses 5-8).

This means humility, servanthood and even death, if need be, for one another, in Jesus. And it also means exaltation in Jesus, for all who take this path (verses 9-11), though, of course these verses refer only to Christ. But I take them to apply to our communal following of him. We certainly will share in his glory, if we share in his sufferings.

Christ's work is redemptive. Certainly for his brothers and sisters. But also for the world. It would stand to reason, then, that our following of him is likewise to go beyond just our relationships with one another. But also to be redemptive, for the world. Of course Christ's work is unique. But we're to be little christs, in our obedience to God. This is at the heart of following him.

And there is no way we're to live in a bubble. Our life in the world will, and should cross over into the lives of all kinds of people. That they would see the Christ life in us. That they would see the difference in our lives as we follow him. Then whatever we say in witness can have much more impact, by the Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that all people would know that they were his disciples or followers, if they had love for each other. He also prayed, soon afterwards, that we would be united, just as he and the Father were united, so that the world would know that the Father had sent him. This is largely redemptive in purpose. Yes. Displaying a reality. But doing so for the world.

Back to the Philippians 2 passage. We must see our communion with other believers in this light. Do we reflect the Lord and his love, his grace and truth? Or do we sometimes reflect the world? And live according to the flesh? Christ's obedience and love gave to the point of the most cruel death. Like him we're to be servants of all. And that service must start at home and in our gatherings as church. That we together, would learn to live out this great Christ life, in mission to the world.

This is such a preliminary sketch. What do you see here that can help us?


Dan Brennan said...


Good thoughts--these passages you mention are great paradigm boundaries for our communal following of Christ.

Kim said...

Christianity, at its heart, is relational. When we look at the fruit of the Spirit, in Galations 5, it takes the form of emotional interaction: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When we put on the "mind of Christ" we hold ourselves to account, but also (just as important) we refrain from the expectation that others treat us in kind. I'm afraid fairness and justice are unreasonable expectations here.

If we were to put on His mind we would not be here to judge the world, but to save it. And save it not from its physical ailments, but its spiritual ones!

And yes, until I exhibit Christ to my wife at home (whom I was commanded to love like Christ loved the church and laid himself down for her) and to my children (whom I was commanded not to exasperate) I am wide open for the criticism of hypocrisy. But I will not use that as an excuse not to try!

Peace, Kim

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks, Dan. Yes, this too often has been about our individual following. But it really is getting at our communal following, for sure.

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Important points there. I think this Philippians 2 passage flies right in the face of the entitlement that seems to afflict so many of us Christians, these days. And like you say, the fruit of the Spirit is irrespective of "rights". Thanks.

L.L. Barkat said...

I feel chastened... imagine for a moment if we took this idea into our marriages ("to the point of a most cruel death") ... our "death," not the destruction of our spouse. A strong call to live a love that never gives up.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Thanks for that. You bring out another aspect. This embracing the most cruel death of the cross aspect, as in our daily attitude and walk of love.

Yes. This chastens me, as well. Especially in my past. But even so, in my present. Much to reflect and grow on here.