When thinking about the topic of humility and self-denial, our minds naturally go to Philippians 2, where we find one of the clearest descriptions of Christ’s own humbling of Himself. We are commanded in verse five to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” A closer look at the context of this passage, however, is helpful in understanding more fully what God through the apostle Paul is teaching us here. The verses immediately preceding this passage are about relationships within the Body of Christ and the unity and humility that are to exist there. This is important, because putting self to death always takes place within the context of relationships. It is in this context that our own selfishness becomes most evident, and it is this concern for self that all too often hinders or even destroys the relationships God has placed in our lives.
Romans 12:3 is a similar passage, in which we find an exhortation to Christ-like humility within the context of relationships in the Body of Christ. The context immediately preceding this verse is the familiar call to present ourselves as living sacrifices. Verse 1 begins with “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God….” This offering of ourselves, then, seems to be the natural response to what Paul has been talking about in the first 11 chapters of Romans – namely, the Gospel! This takes place as we renew our minds through the Word of God so that our thinking is more like that of Christ and less like that of the world. One of the primary means by which this offering of ourselves in service to God is worked out practically is through the relationships He has put within the Body of Christ, which Paul goes on to talk about in the rest of this chapter. At the very beginning of this section, however, is the reminder that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, which greatly impacts the way in which we view others with their unique gifts and personalities and the way that we serve others. If I am thinking too highly of myself, I will be much less likely to honor others before myself (vs. 10), to give generously to others (vs. 13), to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (vs. 15), to associate with the lowly (vs. 16), or to return good for evil (vs. 17-21). Having the mind of Christ and a proper view of myself is the only way that I will truly be able to exhibit these characteristics of a servant as I relate to others around me.
So once again, I must ask myself, “Is my attitude like that of Christ?” I need to be renewing my mind daily by spending time with Him, so that my thinking is less conformed to the world and more like that of my Savior!
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:5)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2)