The Mind of Christ
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Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:3-5)
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We are accustomed to defining our loyalty to Christ in terms of our behaviors. We obey the commandments, we do good works, we clean up our language, we shun evil conduct, and so forth. This is all good, of course. But the true measure of our relationship with Christ is found in our minds. How we think about ourselves and others, about God and the world, is a far more accurate indicator of our real devotion. Actions can be faked; attitudes cannot.
In this text, Paul contrasts two mindsets that determine the true trajectory of our lives. One he calls "selfish ambition or conceit." This describes the person who looks out on the world with one goal in view: to promote himself. Every decision is influenced by the calculation, "how will this benefit me?" Even "good" people can use their goodness as a tool for self-promotion. (If that seems implausible, take a closer look at the Pharisees.)
The second mindset is one of "looking out for the interests of others." At heart, this person "esteems others as better than himself." In all his relations with others, there is no angle to play, no ulterior motive, no manipulation; just a genuine "lowliness of mind" that sincerely wants others to benefit from his service. He doesn't even care if he gets any credit for his altruism; his reward is the joy in the lives of those he helps.
The life of Jesus was based on the latter mindset. This "mind of Christ" was incomprehensible to those who saw Him in action during His earthly sojourn. He had the power to get anything He wanted; yet He used it exclusively to serve humanity. Even today, we marvel at His generosity, but fail to appreciate the inner disposition that fueled it. Jesus saw His purpose in life as helping others, not helping Himself. That frame of mind made Him who He was.
The mind of Christ is still incomprehensible today, even among His disciples. Humans just aren't wired that way, and it takes an extraordinary act of repentance ("change of heart") to even begin to understand what a revolutionary change this would create in our lives if we could implement it.
But implement it we must, Paul argues. If we take our commitment to Jesus Christ seriously, we must turn all our attention toward fixing the source of our sin problem: our selfish hearts.