Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6–11 NIV)
In the introduction to a few of his letters, Paul refers to himself as a servant of Christ. This same word for servant—doulou in Greek—is used in Philippians 2 to describe Jesus. The way that Paul uses this word in these two verses, as well as elsewhere, is in the context of a bondservant, one who has given himself up wholly to another’s will. Paul is not the originator of this concept; it comes from Exodus, where God, in laying out the Law for the Israelites, instructs His people to free their Hebrew servants in their seventh year of service, unless they choose to remain a servant under their current master, in which case the master “shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:6).
Paul, in this first century hymn, is directly connecting the image of a bondservant—with his flesh pierced on the wooden doorpost—with Jesus on the cross. When Jesus chose to be born of Mary, He was also choosing this death on the cross. From His first breath to His last—and then to His resurrection and beyond—Jesus is the ultimate servant, one who gave His life for the undeserving and thereby made them worthy of being called children of God. For all who understand the gift that has been given, and the depth of love behind that gift, the best response is to pledge, as Paul did, to be a servant of Jesus the Christ, willingly placing His desires and plans for their life above their own and following wherever He leads.
Spend some time with Jesus, asking Him about His plans for your life today and listening, in this moment and throughout your day, for how He is leading you.