The Way Up is Down by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

Philippians 2:1-11

“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.”

When I resigned from Mississippi Blvd. in 2003 to work for Church Extension and New Church Ministries, a woman by the name of Brenda Dupree gave me a little book with about fifty pages titled, “The Way Up is Down.” She said that it would be a quick read with valuable lessons on climbing the ladder of success. It is a book with instructions on how we should act, think, behave, and lead when we reach new levels of growth and significance.

To climb this ladder of success, we must constantly remain in a humble state of mind, because the same people we meet on the way up the ladder, maybe the same people that we meet on the way back down. This book challenges us to consider the cost of getting the bobblehead. Y’all know what the bobblehead is, don’t you? It’s thinking that we have arrived, when we believe the sun rises and shines around us, when self is on the throne of your life as opposed to Jesus Christ.

“The Way Up is Down” challenges us to consider our identity in Jesus Christ. To consider how we view life, towards our family, and tribulations which we often face. It is how we think or react regarding other people, about society, about our jobs, about relationships, about political processes, and our spiritual grounding. In other words, how do we treat people in our sphere of influence?

Humility is a lost art in the world in which we live. Humility is a forgotten discipline. And I say discipline referring to the need to practice, model, and have a disposition that is bathed in the image of Christ. It’s easy to mimic what it means to love Christ on Sundays. But, you see, my siblings, being “In Christ” changes everything. Being “In Christ” signifies a change in us and a longing to be made over in his image. If the saving message of the gospel is in us, then we desire to have the mind of Christ.

In Philippians 2, Paul makes an appeal to his audience, outlining the Christian life, more specifically our life in Jesus Christ. Jesus revealed himself through his gracious actions by his refusal to exploit his rights, in his self-emptying, in his self-humiliation, and in his obedience to God. Through the actions of Jesus Christ, we have the perfect revelation of the love and compassion of God. Jesus’ humility and obedience are rooted in the will of God.

Jesus did not feel guilty or consider robbery to be equal with God. Although he grew up in poverty, oppression, and humiliation in a cruel world, that did not stop him from walking with respect for himself, and loving us enough to give himself for us. Jesus was not recognized by everyone as someone great. However, he kept the right perspective throughout his life. Jesus was God and man, but he did not let his status as God overshadow him in developing, walking in, and manifesting the humility found in great leaders.

My former pastor, Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson, shared with me a definition of humility that I still carry with me today. He shared that “humility is strength under control.” The humiliation of the cross revealed the strength and glory of God. A king riding on a donkey is humiliating. A king stripped of his rights, his life, and his authority revealed the strength and glory of God. A king brought up on trumped-up charges revealed the strength and glory of a loving God. If we want to know what strength under control looks like, I encourage you to study what Paul shared about Jesus in this Philippians scripture.

Happy Resurrection Sunday!