It’s a dangerous thing. Sometimes it comes in its most sinister, outright format. Sometimes it sneaks in the side door. But it insidiously lurks in many conversations. What is it? It’s The Question. It’s the opportunity to take someone else down. It’s the offered prospect to slam or subtly sabotage someone else’s character, life or ministry. This can happen on a macro/organizational level:
· Have you heard what’s goin’ on over there at First Church of the Postmodern Outreach?
· What are distinguishes your ministry from the other one down the street?
· What do you think of the worship at the Church of the Perpetual Organ?
It can also happen at the individual level:
· How are things going with Bob and Sheila?
· Why did you and Tony split your small group?
· What were the core reasons you left your old church?
In each of these propositions, The Question looms. And the power always rests with the person answering the question. In the few moments that hang after the question has dropped and the answerer takes a sip of cappuccino to compose his thoughts, he makes a choice. Will he take this opportunity to make himself look good at the expense of the other, or will he intentionally rank himself below?
Paul made an interesting remark about Christ. He said Jesus did not “demand and cling to His rights as God”; rather, He “made Himself nothing.” This word for “nothing” is literally translated “under-rower.” This means nothing to us, but it meant a lot to a Roman.
The Roman Empire sailed the seas in giant, hulking slave ships. On each of these ships, there were three levels of slaves, cranking away at the oars. The bottom level of human engines, affectionately referred to as the “under-rowers,” had the worst job. They were hardly able to get their oars out of the water while the guys on top had lots of room to swing their oars over everyone else’s. In addition to the grueling work, everything dripped down from two other layers of slaves: seawater, sweat, other fluids (there were no latrines!).
This is the description of where Jesus ranked Himself. Here He is, deity, intentionally ranking Himself below created beings.
Every day we encounter The Question. And the power that determines the trajectory of the conversation remains with us.
Dig Deeper: Philippians 2[Noel is a student pastor at Riverview Church in Holt, Mich. He spends his days entertaining his wife and three kids. You can find out more about Noel by visiting his website, www.noelheikkinen.com.]
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