Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be exploited (ἁρπαγμός, seized booty), but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient (ὑπήκοος) unto death, even death on a cross…” (Php 2: 5-8)

Here St. Paul tells us how we are to be “minded” (τοῦτο φρονεῖτε), as Christ was. We are not to use even our true prerogatives and talents as “a thing to be exploited,” when these strengths of ours might lead us away from the self-giving path of the cross. Just as, for example, our Lord did not use His divine powers to “turn these stones into loaves of bread,” just to prove Himself before a cynical doubter, the devil (Mt 4:3). Instead He makes Himself “empty” (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν).

This Self-emptying makes possible His “obedience” to the Father’s will, - and by “obedience” St. Paul does not mean a mindless following of instructions, no. The word “obedience” in English (from the Latin “ob,” in the direction of, and “audire,” listen) and in Greek (ὑπακούω, from “ὑπο,” under, and ἀκούω, listen) means not only to “listen in,” but to internalize deeply, comprehend, and, most importantly, to respond. This is a thoughtful and often painful process, as we see in Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane, as well as His excruciating “Why?” from the Cross (Mt 27: 46).

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