April 1, 2009



By Kevin Gary, assistant professor of education
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL: My reading of Philippians 2:5-11 was deepened by Johannes Baptist Metz’s book, Poverty of Spirit, which is a meditation on this passage. Metz illuminates how several major heresies about the nature of Jesus attempt to deny Jesus’ humanity; so too, Metz observes, we seek to evade, ignore and reject our own humanity.

I find Metz’s account to be a perceptive indictment. Rather than embrace my humanity I am often impatient with myself, critical of my intelligence (or lack thereof), embarrassed by my physical characteristics, annoyed by how much sleep I need and hurrying to finish tasks which I falsely assumed I could finish quicker. I desire to be superhuman and my attitude is far from Christ’s attitude, who, “though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born of human estate.” Jesus’ example is beyond me; though he controls the universe he lets go. Meanwhile I find myself craving more certainty, more control, in short, more divinity and less humanity. Of course, I hit a wall, and despair sets in.

I find Lent to be the most valuable time of year, as it reminds me of who I am and where I come from. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, as I receive ashes, I am reminded that “I am from dust and to dust I shall return,” through Good Friday, when Jesus “became obedient to death, even death on a cross,” I am awestruck by Jesus’ embrace of my humanity.

Quoting poet Girard Manley Hopkins I occasionally catch a glimpse that:

“I am all at once what Christ is,
since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd,
patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.”

And despair and grasping melt away.


SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death —
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.



Comments (15)

  1. Wow. This really spoke to me this morning. I am a teacher who is facing a layoff due to budget cuts. I am looking for a new job and find that I am often frustrated with myself as I go through this process. I have also found that I forget other people’s humanity too as I forget my own. This was a good reminder to me. Thanks!

    Stephanie April 1, 2009 |
  2. Professor Gary offers a profound perspective on this kenosis passage which I had never read or thought of: No matter how hard we try, we can never — in our own strength — become like God. So we ought to be willing to empty ourselves in order that God can work Divine work within us.

    Professor, I won’t plagiarize you, but I intend to quote you in a sermon or radio Bible lesson!

    Lawrence Webb April 1, 2009 |
  3. Some great food for thought! Jesus’ embrace of my humanity is so comforting. Couple that with the gift of His everlasting life to me and I am awed by His love and overwhelmed with gratitude.

    Ruth Hochstetler April 1, 2009 |
  4. Thank you. You encouraged me in my Lenten reflection on Jesus and his walk to the cross …

    Ann April 1, 2009 |
  5. This is just beautiful, poignant and oh-so-helpful today, especially. I will spend the day in Philippians, easing up on my demands of myself, a creature of God who does her best and never judges it to be enough. Where I can stretch, I will stretch. Where I am at my limit today, I will rest. Thank you, Professor Gary.

    Maureen April 1, 2009 |
  6. Amen and Amen

    Eleanor April 1, 2009 |
  7. I thank you so much for this ‘freeing’ message needed at this moment. How I agree that so many times I’ve thot Jesus is beyond me! Your intro for me to Girard Hopkins’ immortal diamond is a new breath for which I am grateful. I, like others, will share this thinking with family & friends.

    Janis Crowe April 1, 2009 |
  8. Thank you for reminding me of this concept! I’ve been a Christian for 40+ years and am just now learning that until I embrace all of the parts of myself I hate or feel shame about, I can’t let go, trust God and grow into the whole person God meant me to be. This was very helpful – thank you again!

    Sandy Reed April 1, 2009 |
  9. Your writing today, especially “Meanwhile I find myself craving more certainty, more control, in short, more divinity and less humanity. Of course, I hit a wall, and despair sets in.” is exactly what I feel, especially today. Thank you for reminding me what is important.

    Mark R April 1, 2009 |
  10. Kevin, thanks for your very thoughtful writing and for the way in which you identify it with yourself.

    In Romans Paul sees Jesus as the second Adam. Adam and Eve saw grasping for equality with God as something they wanted. So they are hiding in the bushes behind this passage as do I and you and all others. Thank you for calling us to see our humanity and to let Jesus to be in control (Lord). Harold Bauman

    Harold E. Bauman April 1, 2009 |
  11. Everyone else’s comments capture my own surprise and delight at your new interpretation of this passage for me. It’s a new look at healthy humility. I despair every day that I now require 8 hours of sleep, when I used to “get by” with 5. Fewer hours awake mean I can’t be so “super human.” I’ll try to stop seeing this as weakness. Thanks!

    Kathy April 1, 2009 |
  12. To be human is to need rest, play, sunlight, time outdoors. To be human is to be not too bright most of the time, in despite occasional flashes of insight. To think of being human through the lens of this passage is very freeing. Thank you for hitting the nail on the head.

    Jennifer Schrock April 1, 2009 |
  13. I am so grateful for these daily reflections from Goshen College. I receive other daily reminders but this gets me to my core…and what better place to find God within. Much gratitude to you both students and faculty who express yourself and your TRUTH so well.

    Judith April 1, 2009 |
  14. thank you. how fitting to own on April fools day that unless we own ourselves redeemed by God the joke is indeed on us.

    stu buisch April 1, 2009 |
  15. “I find myself craving more certainty, more control, in short, more divinity and less humanity. Of course, I hit a wall, and despair sets in.” This helped me see my need to control, to try for perfection, is what I need to let go of and let God be Divine, Perfect. Thank you!

    Esther Heatwole April 6, 2009 |