Last Friday Harper Lee went home to Jesus, and the Internet flooded with tributes to her simple, profound novel To Kill A Mockingbird. The quote on the picture above, a favorite with many of her fans, immediately made me think of Jesus:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
There are an infinite number of endearing things about Jesus, but this just might be the thing that makes me love Him most. The fact that He was willing to climb into our human skin and walk around in a mortal body astounds me. Knowing full well what He was getting into, He was willing to give up heaven- the unspeakable joys of perfect love, creative authority, and glorious peace- in order to become a man. Voluntarily! Before He ever got to the cross He endured temptation, suffering, grief, and rejection, not to mention all the blessings and curses that come with having a body and living with other people. But Christ thought that what He was giving up in heaven was nothing compared to what He would gain, which was you and me. We are the “joy set before Him,” and the prospect of eternity with His Father AND with us was just too wonderful to pass up. (Hebrews 12:2)
Not only His dying, but also His living, demonstrates that I can trust Him completely. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” No wonder we can “come boldly to the throne of grace!” (Hebrews 4:15-16) In order to empathize with us completely, “in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.” (Hebrews 2:17) He knows my struggles because He struggled; He knows my sorrows because He cried; He knows my temptations because He resisted them. Jesus was willing to walk a mile in my shoes, so to speak, and He paid the highest price imaginable in order to do it. Such costly solidarity with humanity certainly deserves our passionate response.
Go back to the verse from Philippians. See how it starts: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” How do we do that, practically speaking? Here’s how a guy named Randy let the mind of Christ direct him:
Awkward, bored, and lonely, Bob Goff hated high school. His grades were terrible and his social life wasn’t thrilling. Befriended by a Young Life guy named Randy, Bob avoided the Jesus talk whenever he could. But Randy had a beard and a motorcycle and a girlfriend, all of which Bob thought was pretty cool, so when Bob decided to drop out of high school, he stopped by Randy’s house early one Saturday morning to say goodbye on his way out of town.
He knocked on the door and found he’d woken Randy. Embarrassed, Bob told his friend he was headed to Yosemite to climb rocks- oh, and get a job too. Randy stood at the door looking puzzled, and then asked Bob to wait there for a minute. A few minutes later Randy reappeared at the door with his backpack and asked if he could go to Yosemite too. Randy didn’t play the wise adult and try to talk him out of his harebrained scheme; he just said, “Bob, I’m with you.” (Love Does, p. 3)
Unaccustomed to such friendship, Bob was stunned, but he agreed and the two set off on the six-hour drive to Yosemite. For the next two days he applied for jobs, but no one was hiring a high-school dropout. Randy believed in him, encouraged him, and repeated his patiently persistent refrain, “Bob, I’m with you.” But after two days of rejections, Bob got the picture that he would need a diploma, and the two hopped in the car for a quiet ride back.
Dropping Randy off at his house, Bob wasn’t anxious to go home himself, so he followed his friend inside. “Welcome home, honey,” cried Randy’s girlfriend, as she ran to hug her man. Looking around the room Bob noticed that there were opened presents all around… and realized that Randy’s girlfriend was no longer just a girlfriend, that he had unknowingly interrupted the first weekend of Randy’s newlywed life:
Instead of spending the early days of his marriage with his bride, he spent it with me… Why? It was because Randy loved me. He saw the need and he did something about it. He didn’t just say he was for me or with me. He was actually present with me.
What I learned from Randy changed my view permanently about what it meant to have a friendship with Jesus. I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all the right stuff or obeying a list of rules. It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel- ‘God with us.’ I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us. It’s also what he has in mind for us when it comes to other people. (Love Does, p.8)*
Randy -and, I might add, Randy’s new wife- reached out to a kid adrift and in trouble, giving up their first days of marriage to demonstrate how much they cared. Without judgment or even advice, Randy demonstrated a sacrificial love that transformed Bob’s life. What Randy did for Bob is a small-scale (but extremely meaningful) version of what Jesus does for us, and what He wants us to do for others: offer friendship, withhold condemnation, meet the need, and stay close. Of course Jesus has done and continues to do so much more than any of us could ever hope to do. But His “command is this: love others as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
I cannot give up my deity because I am not a god. But I can give up the throne of my own self-will and offer it to Jesus. I can set aside my own desire in order to meet the need of another. I can learn from Immanuel what it means to “be with” another person, because I am so grateful He is always with me.
Let us pray:
Father, teach me what it means to bear another’s burdens; I want to fulfill the law of Christ. I want to know how to be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Give me a heart that wants to edify others, to comfort the fainthearted, to uphold the weak, and to be patient with all. May I never want to render evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for myself and for all. Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:15, 1 Thessalonians 5: 11, 14,15
Lord, I pray I will never withhold good from anyone, when it is in my power to do it. Proverbs 3:27
Jesus, I am so grateful that You became flesh and dwelt among us. You have given me consolation in You, the comfort of your love, the fellowship of Your Spirit… I want to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind esteem others as better than myself. Remind me to look out not only for my own interests, but also for the interests of others. John 1:14, Philippians 2:1,3
All praise to You, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! You are the Father of all mercy, the God of all comfort, our Healing Counselor! You come alongside me when I go through hard times, and before I know it, You bring someone alongside me who is going through hard times so that I can be there for that person just as You have been there for me! 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 MSG
Jesus, You have commanded me to love others as You have loved me. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. Help me be this kind of friend, Jesus, because it doesn’t come naturally to me; and yet You laid down Your life for me, and I want to be more like You. John 15:12-13
Jesus, You demonstrated how I could love the Lord my God with all my heart, my mind, my soul and my strength. You became my neighbor, and loved me as Yourself. Though You were rich, for my sake You became poor, that through Your poverty I might become rich. Help me love with Your kind of love. Luke 10:27, 2 Corinthians 8:9
* Please, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and read Bob Goff’s Love Does. Randy’s solidarity with Bob that one weekend has had far-reaching consequences. Bob (the guy who tried to drop of out high school) is the founder of Restore International, a non-profit that fights injustice against children in Uganda and India. He is the Honorary Consul for Uganda to the United States, a partner at a law firm, and a law professor at Pepperdine. I took a look at his outstanding ratings at ratemyrofessor.com, where one student wrote, “I wish he was my dad.” Bob is in fact father to three children and deliriously happy husband to “Sweet Maria.”