Leadership & Downward Mobility

The Way Up is Down | Week Eight

Getting Started

In this week’s devotional, the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Philippi. Throughout the letter, Paul encourages the Christian community in Philippi to stay united in the midst of persecution. In this passage, he reminds them of Jesus’ leadership and what it means to be members of God’s family. As you read this passage, look for anything that seems unexpected or unlikely.

Philippians 2:1-11

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to

his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Questions to Consider

  • In vv. 1-4, what do you think it means to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind”?
    • How have you experienced this type of community? Why is this type of community so hard to cultivate
  • In this passage, what do we learn about Jesus’ mindset in vv. 5-11
  • What strikes you most about Jesus’ mindset?
  • In v. 5, it says that in our relationships with others, we should have the same mindset as Jesus. How have you experienced this in your relationships?
  • How do you feel challenged by this passage to have Jesus’ mindset in your relationships (greek brothers/sisters, family, dating)?

Closing Reflection

Every time I read this passage, the line that sticks out to me is:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God to be used to his own advantage.”

As God-in-flesh, Jesus has every right to wield power and to throw around his authority. But he doesn’t. Instead he lays down his power, he lays down his privilege, and serves deeply.  Sadly, many in leadership seem to care more about gaining or holding on to power than serving the people around them. We like to pretend that we are little gods in flesh, don’t we?

If I turn the magnifying glass on myself, I’m not immune to the desire for power either. I love to be in control. I clench power in my fists, reluctant to let go. I foolishly believe that if I am in control, nothing can go wrong. No one can hurt me, no one can take advantage of me. I’m safe. When things don’t work out how I plan, I’m tempted to resent the people I’m called to serve. What have they done lately for me? What if I serve them but they don’t serve me back? What am I really getting out of this relationship anyway?

If left unchecked, my complaints turn into bitterness- which inevitably leaks out and spills all over those I’m entrusted to lead. My service is no longer a gift, it is a curse with strings attached. In my grasping for power and in my greedy longing for privilege, I elevate myself while pushing others down. In my clumsy attempts at self-preservation, I hurt those around me and damage my relationships.

The Way Up is Down

Jesus’ way is different. It is the way of downward mobility. All throughout Scripture, we see glimpses of his upside down Kingdom, where the first are last, the poor are rich, and those on the fringes are all of a sudden the insiders. Jesus is so secure in his identity as God in the flesh that he is able to freely give up his power and privilege for the sake of others. Jesus models that the way to greatness is down- releasing control, letting go of power, giving rather than receiving, serving and loving without condition.

How is Jesus inviting you to pursue downward mobility? Examine your life lately using these questions:

  • Is there a place where letting go of control or power terrifies you? Name those areas.
  • What prevents you from letting go of control? If you were to let go of control, what would be the worst case scenario? Talk to God about it.
  • What might it look like to release these areas to God? Is there someone you can talk with about this to help you brainstorm or keep you accountable?

End your time with a brief prayer:

Jesus, I admit that I long for power and I foolishly cling to control. Help me to trust you, that you are good and that you are trustworthy. Remind me that you, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to [your] own advantage; rather, [you] made [yourself] nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” I want to be more like you. Help me to see specific ways that I can release power and serve without condition this week. Amen.

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