“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” ~ Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus did not consider his equality with God something to be used for his own benefit. Jesus saw his position and power as a way to serve others. A way to serve all. He became a servant. The Greek word in the text is actually “slave.” Deprived of the most basic human rights. No rights. No freedom. No choice. No voice. He gave up all that for the sake of others. In his own words, Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.
Our Lord never exercised his rights. He never asserted his rights.
This is so important for us to consider. As citizens of the United States of America coming off a three-day weekend celebrating the country’s independence, we should reflect on our priorities as they fall into line behind those of our Lord.
Jesus never fought for or defended his rights. He never lobbied for his rights or complained about his rights. He didn’t worry about losing his rights or step forward to keep his rights.
Christ Jesus, our King, gave up his rights. All his rights. He denied his rights.
And he invites us to do the same. He invites us to imitate him.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34
Jesus left everything. He considered the glory he shared with the Father in heaven nothing. He came here to suffer, to be deserted by his family and friends, to be tortured and executed like a criminal for people like you and me. For all people.
And he didn’t have to. Jesus had the authority. He had the power. The armies of heaven were at his disposal. He had ten thousand angels on speed dial. Jesus and his followers could have marched to Rome in the morning, overthrown the government that afternoon, hang Caesar from the highest tree and still been home in time for dinner. Jesus could have given each of his apostles his own country and they could have run the government the way it needs to be run. But, instead, he gave up his rights and died. He gave himself up.
And he summons us to do the same.