In recent Musalaha meetings we have been reflecting on Philippians chapter 2, where Paul writes about Jesus coming to earth. This act was very significant on his part, as it required him to give up his position of authority, power and glory in God’s heavenly kingdom. All the riches of heaven were at his disposal, but instead he lowered himself and became a slave on our behalf. Philippians 2:7 says that he “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” The creator made himself into one of the created.
This is an important point to remember, especially as we are coming into the Christmas season, which is marked by remembering that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He came to earth as a human, in the most vulnerable and humble way possible. He was born in a stable, because there was no room for him, among animals and shepards. In the Middle East (ancient and modern), hospitality is one of the most important cultural values, so this theme of humility reverberates even more. To turn away anyone, let alone a pregnant woman, is almost unthinkable, and yet this is how Jesus came into the world. He came, not as a warrior or king, demanding power and recognition, but as the son of a humble carpenter. Jesus emptied himself of all that was royal and princely. He took on human flesh, and “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Jesus did all of this willingly, in order to provide us with a salvation we do not deserve.
The incarnation of Christ is also essential to the process of reconciliation, because in order to reconcile with our enemies, we also need to humble ourselves. Jesus provided us with the perfect example to follow in this regard. In our country right now, the situation is very difficult. People on both sides of the political divide are demanding recognition without being willing to give it. People are demanding recognition of their identity, and of their rights. They are demanding recognition of their political or theological opinions, and they are putting all of this recognition as a precondition for fellowship. We all think that we are right and that others who disagree with us are wrong. This is completely normal. However, we cannot make the mistake of refusing to fellowship with others just because they disagree with us. We must remain humble, and open to the possibility that we are wrong. Paul writes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)
Part of our human nature is to constantly seek after more power and privilege. We are always trying to improve our situation by getting a better passport, or getting into a better school, we are always looking out for a better job, a bigger salary, or a bigger house. But if we look at the example Jesus set, we see that he went in the opposite direction. He did not seek more privilege, in fact he freely gave up the privileges and power he had, and lowered himself to the level of a human slave. In order to reach us, and to reconcile humankind and God, Jesus came down to our level, and removed every obstacle standing in our way, barring us from God. We must do the same. We need to reach out to our enemies, to go where they are and meet them there. We are not above anyone else, and we should not be above meeting with anyone else, especially our brothers and sisters in the Messiah. Above all, it is our duty to seek fellowship with each other, and to seek after reconciliation.
The conditions of our conflict separated us from each other, and our anger and fear keep this separation intact, but we are called to be different, and to challenge and change the world by our example. We are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” and we are to “shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15). Humble and vulnerable as the baby-king, this is how we will change the world.
Written by Salim J. Munayer
Edited by Joshua Korn