“Have this mind among yourselves, 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 made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name… .” (Phil. 2:5-9)
Like most people, I have a bit of a problem with pride. I tend to think I’m special-different than others, and thus deserving of better treatment.
Even when I can remember this passage and its encouragement to humility, I still puff myself up – I get proud over my humility and my lack of pretension which quickly just spirals into silliness.
The weekend I moved into my latest apartment, shared with three other guys, I started Saturday off by washing dishes and cleaning the stove to make sure they know I’m an upstanding guy – demurring when they thanked me but making sure that they’ve seen what I did. I actually need to make sure that they don’t make a fuss about it, since that puts me in a possibly shaming spotlight (and sets up future expectations that my vanity might not match).
My service to others becomes its own source of arrogance. Even my attempts to be vulnerable can launch me into an abased pride.
It’s a little bit like Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice – he doesn’t have the same credentials as Mr. Darcy, or the same wit as Elizabeth but he still manages to cultivate pride through his ridiculous humility. He lowers himself and praises his patron but by doing so revels in vanity as much as the rest of the cast of characters.
Pride is sneaky and shows itself in peculiar ways when we least expect it – a smarmy desire to seem awesome in front of a crowd or the shrinking reluctance to face the spotlight both come from pride.
That’s why Paul’s framing of this hymn of praise to Christ is so fantastic: we aren’t called to an individual but a group unity with Christ. The mind of humility is one that we are supposed to share.
Any unity with Christ is realized through unity with other people – the two are entangled in this passage just like they are in real life. You can’t have unity with Christ without being united with his church which means going to a mess of other people, caring about what they care about and trying to see their good.
This doesn’t completely cut off pride – collective pride can be as deadly as individual pride – but it means that the work of humbling ourselves is something we do together. Ideally, we can avoid the ridiculous back-wash of a prideful humility and weasley-ness which makes us all miniature Mr. Collinses.
We should pray together, work together and humble ourselves, Paul claims, together following the example of Christ.
“…Help me to walk as Jesus walked,
My only Savior and perfect model ,
His mind my inward guest,
His meekness my covering garb.
Let my happy place be among the poor in spirit,
My delight the gentle ranks of the meek.
Let me always esteem others better than myself,
And find in true humility
An heirdom to two worlds.”
(“Christlikeness,” Valley of Vision, 249)