Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2.5)
One of the most telling truths about humanity is that we are all influenced by one another. Simply put, we are social beings. What this also means is that we have role models, we follow examples and we walk in someone else’s footsteps. The Bible presents Christ as our perfect example, best role model and the one whose footsteps we ought to walk in (Eph 5.1-2, 1 Cor 11.1). This is the substance of Paul’s counsel here in Philippians “let the same mind be in you that that was in Christ Jesus.” In one sense we can understand this to be a reflection on our mind/thinking; in view of the fact that our mind shapes everything about us. The reason Solomon advised “as a man thinketh so is he” (Prov 23.7 paraphrased). Alternately and denotatively, mind here is understood as attitude, not just thought process but how that thought process harmonizes and interplays with our behaviour and our response to a given stimuli.
Jesus’ mind-attitude is epitomized (best reflected) in the incarnation. It is described as “humble”. This is not simply a disposition or ‘personality trait’ equal to ‘easy going’. This is a choice made which includes selflessness (do nothing out of selfish ambition – vs. 3), seeing great value in others (“regard others as better than yourselves – vs. 3) and giving priority to the needs of others (look not to your own interest but to the interests of others – vs 4). Humility is also about how we respond to unfavourable situations since the word humility in itself is from the same root as humiliate. This humility was the foundation of Paul saying “therefore God highly exalted him…” It is a triumphant, overcoming, revolutionary type humility. This is the story of Jesus. God uses an unknown girl, a cattle pen, an insignificant village and shepherds as key components of the most revolutionary and victorious life to have every walked this earth.
This highly exalted, triumphant message born at Christmas is grounded in the principle of humility advocating for a certain kind of selflessness. This is not simply putting others before you, rather, this humility is about being invested in the other person’s relationship with God. Putting them first towards them honouring God in their life. Jesus humbled himself to be a slave, the ultimate servant that we may be reconciled to God. This challenges us to see the worth in others, a worth is not based on the certificates and accolades they received, nor is worth primarily based on the fact that we are humans – mortal beings of flesh and blood. Our worth is in and through and because of God. Recognizing the worth of all human beings is and ought to be grounded in a deep appreciation that we are all made in God’s image and likeness and that God’s very breath is in us, we are all His children, in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28). We must therefore aggressively reject any effort to define human worth by physical or material accomplishment, by intellect or wit or by any national or international institution. While institutions have their place and value human worth is neither because a constitution so declares or any treaty so requires. The worth of every Vincentian whether we are signed on to an international treaty or not is inalienable. This is a good time for us to see one another because we all matter and remember simple virtues such as hi and hello, good morning and good evening. It is a good time for us remember the good Samaritan, who needed no name, nor identification, no family history but cared for the next person just because here was a child of God in need. This is a good time to remember that the tourist and the local alike are all people of worth, children of God. This is a good time to remember that the person in a mansion and the homeless on the street are all people of worth, children of God. This is a good time to remember the employer and business man and the employee and unemployed are all people of worth, Children of God. Such is our worth that Jesus made an amazing sacrifice, leaving the glory of eternity, becoming moral just for you and me.
This matter of our worth also challenges us to raise question about issues regarding our women and children. The stories of abuse and rape prompt our consideration of the matter of worth. We must resist the many activities that, in effect, demean our women and treat our children merely as commodities. Our world continues to wrestle with the problem of Trafficking of Persons and St Vincent and the Grenadines needs to do due diligence to ensure that we do not add to the narrative. We must challenge our business places who believe a scantily clad young woman is the best lure or advertisement for their product. We must challenge bosses, employers and other senior personnel who lure women into offering themselves for favours. We must continue to cry foul to our van drivers and our entertainers who use music and various art forms to present the woman as a sex object. We must speak up and speak out when we learn of neighbours or villagers who seek to destroy the innocence of our children. If we do not together work towards protecting our children, giving them a strong sense of security and an assurance that we are a nation, that’s there for them, we may well say to them that they are of little worth, contributing to destroying their self-esteem. The worth of our children is at risk as they are exposed to ideas and philosophies that devalue them by instructing and indoctrinating them into believing that they are simply what they feel, and that God did not make them male or female, rather they must figure out which of more than 100 possibilities they are. The worth of our young people is at risk when we devalue them by teaching that they have no control, no power over their body and sexual appetite so just “protect yourself”. The worth of our people in this nation has been compromised by an annual festival that encourages and celebrates no restraint, vulgarity, nudity, indulgence and bad behaviour. The incarnation tells us of our worth as Jesus sacrificed himself that we may become reconciled with God, possible only when we are willing to turn from sin.
This humility Jesus exemplified at Christmas woos us to become persons who are invested in responding to the need of others. This is not about people pleasing, neither is it simply about being do-gooders rather it is looking after their interest, their best interest. It is seeking to reconcile others to God – their greatest need. In so doing we work towards the other experiencing the fullness of life as God desires. This therefore is a call for neighbourliness. It is being deliberately invested in the wellbeing of the next person. This is challenging at a time when “mind your own business” is a common mantra. The call for neighbourliness challenges us at this time of gift-giving, when it seems we care, to be deliberate in our thoughts towards the other. It forces us to candidly reject the folly of tribal politics which can at times see someone celebrating the demise of the next person simply because they are on a different side of the political divide. Rejecting the kind of tribalism which may even manifest itself when the funeral of the die-hard of one party – however outstanding a person they were – sees a noticeable absence of persons from “the other side”. This neighbourliness is the kind that must see us leaving our spaces of comfort and convenience to encourage and support those who are hurting and struggling. This kind of neighbourliness encourages us to be more responsible with the stories we hear and our readiness to spread them without getting the facts. We must consider the lives that will be affected. It is the kind of neighbourliness that challenges our use of social media and encourages our talk show personalities and radio programs to be more invested in the advancement of people’s lives than ratings and popularity.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. This humility we celebrate at Christmas is that we must also aspire to collectively and individually exemplify. It is this humility that sees God highly exalting. It suggests that the future of SVG can be tremendously advanced if we are to learn a fundamental Christmas lesson in humility and let the mind that was in Christ be also in us.
Message by the Christian Council of St. Vincent & the Grenadines