by Barry Newton
Christ’s crucifixion occurred once, yet the way of the cross remains very much alive. To be a mature disciple, we must travel that trail.
In Philippians 2:6-8, when Paul retold the events leading to Christ being crucified, Paul captured what caused Christ to take that path as well as provided Christians with a mindset to be imitated. Christ did not selfishly seek his own interests, rather “he emptied himself” to become flesh. Then, instead of being filled with pride, he further “humbled himself” to become “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This story of Jesus enduring nails piercing his flesh is a story of love. For love is not self-seeking nor proud (1 Corinthians 13:4,5). To love God requires obeying God (2 John 6).
Furthermore, “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). No wonder Paul chose to use the story of Christ to teach the Philippian Christians what it means to “have the same love … looking not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2,4).
Yet the story of Jesus might seem distant to our lives. We might be tempted to think, “Of course he did that. Jesus was the Son of God.”
For the Philippian church, reflections of the way of the cross were about to hit very close to home. Soon the living examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus would be among them. Who were these men?
Paul could describe Timothy as taking “a genuine interest in your welfare” and as having “proved himself” (Philippians 2:20,22). Timothy had chosen the low road of humility; he valued what would concern Jesus instead of just pleasing himself.
Similarly while Epaphroditus had come close to death as he ministered, yet he was not focused upon himself. Instead he was preoccupied about the Philippian Christians’ well being. Paul could write that Epaphroditus was “distressed because you heard he was ill” (Philippians 2:26).
While some people live as enemies of the cross gorging themselves upon their own interests, others carry their crosses living out lives truly characterized by Christ’s love. The cross was more than an event that saves; it is to become a way of life for Jesus’ disciples.
How much do our lives provide others with an up close example of Christ’s selfless love?