“The Blind Side.” “Radio.” “Forest Gump.” Every year, hundreds of feel-good stories like these herald the triumphs of the underprivileged, the undervalued and the underestimated. Organizations like Denver’s Atlantis Community and its nationally renowned offshoot ADAPT work to esteemed disabled individuals and allow them to live in harmony with the able-bodied.
“Uplift the downtrodden. Fix the broken.” That sounds like a perfect summarization of Christ’s message, but it only tells half the story.
Although human nature improves the individual, Christianity seeks to make changes that lessen individuals as well.
Paul perfectly describes Jesus’ role in Phil 2:5-11, but the majestic mystery of Christ often obscures the real abnormality that occurred.
Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
Phil 2:6-7 NIV (emphasis added)
That repeated phrase, “very nature,” comes from the Greek word morphē, which depicts more than something’s nature, but its actual physical form. This is probably seen most easily in English terms like “metamorphosis,” the process of changing of physical forms.
In nature, metamorphosis improves an organism: water-confined tadpoles morph into amphibious frogs, slow crawling caterpillars morph and take flight as butterflies.
Our culture even tells us that metamorphosis is for the good. Kids young and old, after all, know what happens when someone shouts, “IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME!” Suddenly, five (sometimes six) la-de-da teenagers become a team of battle ready, super-heroic Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!
With Jesus, though, the metamorphosis must have happened backwards, because it wasn’t beneficial.
From the “form” of God to the “form” of a servant, Jesus took his superhero outfit and changed into mundane clothing, snipped his wings in favor of crawling in the dirt, and limited himself like a tadpole to a single existence where he previously had greater flexibility.
Telling ourselves that Jesus reverse-morphed for us makes Phil 2 into its own feel-good story, just as long as we also skip Paul’s lead in verse, asking us to adopt that same attitude.
Ignoring an advantage or relinquishing a higher position to maintain harmony with the less fortunate, that is truly accepting Christ’s call. Rather than bettering the worst, Jesus first worsened the better.
Those following the Lord belittle themselves likewise out of love for those without their advantages. They scrap their butterfly wings rather than seem outlandish to the caterpillars in need of their love most.
Rather than take inspiration from those like Forest and Radio and Michael Oher who rose from their poor circumstances—ignoring everyone else’s preconceived expectations of them—and achieved great things, Jesus’ followers shrink from their privileged circumstances to achieve great things.
Doing just as Jesus did for us all, that leads to some true feel-good results.
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