Feb
06
2010

Imitating Christ’s humility

christhumilityTomorrow Kairos will gather at 4 pm at Barbette’s (Call or email Bob at 267-702-4262 for directions/info.)

Our focus will be “Imitating Christ’s humility,” drawing on Paul’s beautiful description of Jesus’ emptying himself for us, taking the form of a slave, in Philippians 2. We’ll look at how our response to Jesus’ kenosis (emptying) plays out on the global stage (as in aid to Haiti and Africa) and how we might express similar solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

Read on for more about the gathering.

Philippians 2:1-11 (NRSV)

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 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.

Christ’s emptying of himself, casting off his divine rights and privileges, in verse 7 has spawned doctrines and theological disputes.  Throughout Christian history people have been moved by the sacrifice of Christ made explicit in Paul’s letter, called kenosis for the Greek word for “emptying.”  Scholars have also argued about whether this emptying obscured Jesus’ divinity, stripped it away completely, or whether his “emptying” was an “act” or self-denial.  Theologians have also argued about whether and how Christians are called to similar self-emptying, and worried about whether our imitation of Christ in this regard takes us toward the heresy of making ourselves “gods.”

All that from one little word!

What does this concept of Christ emptying himself for us mean to you?

How might this reality of being on the receiving end of such emptying affect how you see yourself in the world as a follower of Christ?

Last week the American Public Radio program Speaking of Faith featured Krista Tippett’s interview with Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of the Acumen Fund, which has an increasingly influential profile charting a third way between investment for profit and aid for free.

Against the backdrop of a global outpouring of aid for Haiti, Tippett noted that

“there is also growing scrutiny of the fact that Haiti has remained desperately undeveloped in spite of one of the world’s largest populations of NGOs per capita. Similarly, $500 billion of Western aid to the African continent since 1970 has not yielded a commensurate overall rise in well-being.”

In that vein Tippett also noted that

“The Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo has called for an end to Western aid that she and others argue keeps leaders of developing countries focused on courting foreign donors and breeds corruption. She insists that a future beyond poverty demands instead that governments become accountable exclusively to their own people. And on this program last year, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina spoke of the debilitating effect of growing up surrounded by well-intentioned Western projects that defined him in terms of his poverty and his deficits. In her memoir, “The Blue Sweater,” my guest Jacqueline Novogratz writes this: “As a young woman, I dreamed of changing the world. In my 20s, I went to Africa to try and save the continent only to learn that Africans neither wanted nor needed saving.””

How does the idea that Christ has emptied himself for us affect how we could look at relationships with others, especially other cultures and the poor?

A little later in the program Tippet asks the devil’s advocate question:

Tippett: …If we can’t solve poverty, if we can’t ensure health care for every pregnant woman in New Orleans, you know, or the Bronx or parts of Washington, D.C., who do we think we are, going to solve these things for people in other countries, and how can we think that we have that knowledge, do you know what I’m saying?

Ms. Novogratz: From my perspective, it’s not, oh, look at America. We’re great. Let’s go over. I actually see myself as part of a single world that is becoming more divided not nation to nation, but rich to poor. And so I say it in the book, but I really believe that the elites are becoming more like each other across national borders than they are to low-income people in their own countries. And I definitely feel, you know, I’ll meet someone in Karachi, Pakistan, but we went to the same schools, we eat at the same restaurants and very different experience than a conversation with someone from Appalachia or a migrant worker in Southern California.

So I don’t see it as we’re here to solve your problems. I see it as where can we find innovation in the world that is doing the best job at reaching the most people possible at the lowest cost and then can we take those innovations and can we take those business models and can we start exporting them to other countries, to other communities so that we start building blueprints for what it ultimately takes to extend the economy to every person on the planet.

And quite frankly, my dream is that we will find innovations that are serving poor people in the developing world that will come back to the United States. And I think we’re already starting to see where we could learn so much from some of the innovations that we’ve invested in in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania.

Do you feel part of “one world,” as Novogratz does?

Do you agree or disagree that we can learn from the developing world?

What kind of self-emptying would be needed to be part of this “one world”?

As we approach Lent, I’m reminded that, for many Christians, this is a season of giving up some “luxury,” like chocolate or blogging.  Because some have found this to be unhelpful, it has become fashionable to “take on” a mission or task for Lent, like serving at a soup kitchen or collecting for Haiti.  I wonder if there can’t be a third way of approaching Lent:

What if we gave up something less peripheral to stand in solidarity with those who can’t count on that same blessing?

What could we take on not as an add-on but as a lifestyle change that would (albeit slightly) reduce the gap between us and the poor?

What might that look like for us?


Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,lent,spirituality |

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