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The Rev. Frank Logue
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, Georgia
September 29, 2002


TLJT—Think Like Jesus Thinks
Philippians 2:1-13 

Each summer, the selection of readings takes us through some New Testament books of the Bible in order. This summer, we have already read Paul’s Letter to the Romans on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday, we began reading our way through his Letter to the Philippians.  

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is different in character from many of his letters as Paul is not angry with the Philippians. He is not writing to correct some grievous wrong in a church he started. If you want a contrast, read his letter to the Galatians, where Paul writes in part, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” 

You will not find that tone in this loving letter. Paul began in last week’s reading saying that he thanks God every time he thinks of the Christians in Philippi. Paul is in prison. We cannot be sure where, though the Ephesus is likely. It is now the late 50s or early 60s, or about 25 to 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. These are all guesses, as Paul mentions neither the time nor place of the writing, though he gives enough clues for an educated guess.  

We know from the letter that the church in Philippi learned of Paul’s imprisonment and began praying for his release. Then they sent one of their congregation, Epaphroditus, to take gifts from the church to Paul. We do not know exactly what they sent to Paul, but Paul writes back to say they have more than taken care of his needs. He also uses the letter as an occasion to encourage the faithful church to press on further on their spiritual journeys. 

Paul tells the Philippians they should strive to be of the same mind as Christ. They are to think Christ like things. This is a twist on WWJD, What Would Jesus Do. Paul says TLJT, Think Like Jesus Thinks. 

Then, to give an example of what it means to think like Jesus, Paul quotes what is widely believed to be a hymn already known to the Philippians. Paul often quotes from other sources and here he uses the words of a hymn about Jesus. The hymn text is set as a poem in our bulletins for today. While written in Greek, the scheme of the poetry is that of Hebrew songs and poems, like the Psalms. The hymn may have been sung in Hebrew or Aramaic, or the Greek song could have just been influenced by Hebrew music. 

Paul writes the brief intro “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who” and then jumps into a hymn, 

            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.  

That last line, “even death on a cross” does not fit with the poetic form and may be an addition by Paul for emphasis as he is writing his letter. The hymn continues, 

            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. 

The hymn shows us how the church in its earliest days thought of Jesus. Christians taught that Jesus was equal with God, but emptied himself to be born in human form and as the God/Man he was obedient even to the point of death on the cross. Jesus’ exalted state as Lord of all closely relates to Jesus’ obedience to God the Father in all things. That is what the hymn teaches. Paul then uses the hymn to push his own message home to the Christians in Philippi, calling them to greater obedience to God. 

Paul acknowledges that the Philippians obeyed Paul when he was with them and that they obey what Paul told them even more now that he is away from them. Paul says they should work on obedience to God with fear and trembling, for it is God who will enable them to do his will. 

For Paul, to know God is to know how God has acted in the past. We know that God took the form of a servant when he was born in human likeness. God humbled himself in the person of Jesus. It was through that humble obedience that Jesus came to be exalted. We know God through God’s actions and God, despite all reason, was humble. How much more then should we work to be humbly obedient. Jesus became the servant of all. How can we then not put ourselves at the service of others. 

If you want to think like Jesus thinks, think of how you can be of service to others. How can you reach out to show God’s love for those around you? 

Paul tells us today in no uncertain terms that we are to strive to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. We are to Think Like Jesus Thinks in order to do what Jesus did. Paul gets right to the point writing, “Look not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  

This past week, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon[1] in which he mentioned the ministry of Ted Karpf, an assistant to the Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa. Ted is helping the Anglican Church in South Africa combat the AIDS pandemic which ominously threatens life in Africa in a way difficult to grasp here.  

Twenty years ago Ted knew almost nothing of AIDS other than fear and half truths. It was in 1983, while Ted was working as a priest in the diocese of Dallas in Texas, that the problem of AIDS landed on his doorstep quite literally. Ted answered his door one night to find standing there a man with his face disfigured by the cancerous sores associated with advanced stages of the HIV/AIDS virus. The man said simply: “Will you allow me to come to your church and die here?' He went on to explain that six other churches had already turned him away. 

The first thing Ted thought was of the terrible disease and the uncertainties of how it spread. What would it mean for this man to share in the worship at his church? He thought if you drank from a communion cup with someone that has this disease you too would contract the virus. But Ted stopped long enough to Think Like Jesus Thinks. Ted thought of how Jesus welcomed the outcasts in his own society, especially the lepers who others avoided out of fear of the disease. After an initial pause, Ted said, “My church is open to you. I will stand by you.” 

Later, Ted would learn that the man only wanted to place to commit suicide. However, when he realized that Ted actually intended to show him love and care, the man put aside his thoughts of ending his own life. Miracle of miracles, a church was offering love and support rather than judgment and condemnation. 

The only problem was that Ted’s church could not see it the same way. The issue was not inclusion or exclusion, but fear. Fear of AIDS and what it could do to a person. Ted reached out in love to a dying man and the people of his congregation abandoned their church and that dying man. A few months later, there were only 21 people remaining in Ted’s church. At one main Sunday service, only three people attended. Ted saw no choice but to stand by the dying man offering him the love of God.  

Time passed. The disease ran its course and the man died still upheld by the love of Ted and the few who stood by him. There was no small cost to Thinking Like Jesus Thinks, but the faithful Christians felt they had no other choice. How could they not humble themselves to be of service to someone in need?  

I do not know where Thinking Like Jesus Thinks might lead us. I imagine we will be lead to some uncomfortable circumstances. But if you want to take your Christian faith seriously, you will have to strive to have the same mind in you that is in Christ Jesus. You must endeavor to Think Like Jesus Thinks. Self ambition, conceit, pride, arrogance, looking to your own interest—these are the thoughts of men.  

Humility and unconditional love are the thoughts of God. Think not of your own interest, but also to the interests of others. Think Like Jesus Thinks. 


[1] The full text of Archbishop George Carey’s sermon is available online at where you will see that I have borrowed Canon Ted Karpf’s amazing story in a very similar form. I am thankful to the Anglican Communion News Service for making the text of the Archbishop’s sermons available on a regular basis.

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