Saturday, July 18, 2009

Barbarians in a Pod (Philippians 1:27-2:11)

Mind of Christ and the Singapore Code on Take-overs and Mergers
In the course of corporate life, there comes a time when you find yourself sitting in someone else's board meeting that had been convened at short notice on a hazy Sunday afternoon, and telling their directors that, actually, their company is the part of the Great Singapore Sale that you're most interested in.

The resultant merger from the take-over, with the pruned and trimmed workforce amalgamated into existing offices and carrying the same logo on their business cards and answering to the same boss but reminiscing in private about the good old days in their ex-company, is hardly the sort of unified partnership Paul espouses in Philippians 1:27-2:4.

Egg Tart, Soyabean Products, Hot Crispy Fluffy You Tiao, Hum Jun Bang. Back Alley, Rochor Original Beancurd, Short Street, Selegie
Neither is the "encouragement in Christ and the comfort from love" (Philippians 2:1) the warm but still superficial support shown by old friends turning up at your latest play.

Sesame You Tiao. Bread Bar, Square 2 Novena
Nor does "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side" (Philippians 1:27) and "being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Philippians 2:2) have anything to do with management tactics and company retreats - corporate bonding christianised and biblicised for churches. And so holding hands in a darkness lit only by white candles and swaying and singing wistful songs about world unity is, too, completely inappropriate for this purpose.

The Philippians, and all Christians for that matter, are already innately in intimate partnership with one another, because (i) they are all partners in the same Spirit (Philippians 2:1); and (ii) they already have the same mind - the mind of Christ Jesus, given to them when they first, by believing in him, came into partnership with him (Philippians 2:5) (and thus into partnership with each other (Philippians 1:5)). There is no need to manufacture partnership unity because every Christian worth his salt (pun!) is already united with all other Christians.

Yet, as we are later instructed (Philippians 2:12-18), this status quo must be worked out.

What then does it mean to "have this [same] mind among yourselves, which is your in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5)? It seems that its outworking in our lives is that we "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves]" (Philippians 2:4). But this isn't the Ned-Flanders type caricature of the doormat Christian, mild and timid, always blindly optimistic, and always a pushover. It is an image modelled instead on the very nature of God. (Apparently the NIV translation of the Greek in Philippians 2:6 as "Who, being in very nature God" is more accurate than the ESV "who, though he was in the form of God".)

This fairly boggles the brain. While it is often said amongst evangelicals that our humility ought to come with recognising our position before God, as a mere creatures facing our awesome Creator, it is less usually said that this same magnificent Creator who has all power, all authority, all knowledge of the past, present and future, who has always been able to fashion reality according to whim, and who should be rightly worshipped regardless of his character, should have as the core of his being other-person-centredness and humility.

God the Son already had all glory and power at his disposal but he chose not to take advantage of this though his position was rightfully his. Instead his humble nature manifested itself in his intentionally choosing to be born as a mere creature, in his choosing to obey God the Father to die on the cross for our sins (Philippians 2:6-8, Isaiah 53).

And God the Father showed his immense approval of this by vindicating Jesus the Son, exalting him and bestowing upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knoee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).

With this revelation, can we creatures dare to act higher and mightier than God the Creator and Servant? And with this knowledge, do we not give straightaway, though our mouths are gaping and our heads in a whirl, give glory to God the Father (Philippians 2:11)?

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