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Role Reversal

Posted: 12/13/19 at 4:20pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Christmas is that time of year that seems to bring out the best in us. It’s the time when we experience a role reversal, as we think of others before thinking of ourselves. Perhaps this is a hidden by-product of Christmas.

Is this role reversal a fluke? Or in the original Christmas event, did God give us an example of putting others first?

We find this amazing event described in Philippians 2:4–7 (NIV): not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 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.”

Jesus was with God, and was God, from before the creation of the world (see John 1:1-3). Through Jesus all things were created that exist. In Phil. 2:6-7 Jesus, existing in the form or very nature of God, did not consider equality with God as something to cling to, but instead He took on the form (or very nature) of a servant. The Creator of all things chose to come as a human and live in a flesh and blood body. The Creator, the Master and Lord of all the universe, came in the form of a servant.

One of the interesting things in this passage is found in understanding the Greek word which is translated “form”  in verses 6 and 7. The word translated “form” is the Greek word “morphe,” and means outwardly manifesting the true nature of one’s being. In verse 6, Jesus’ true nature is the Eternal Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Lord and Ruler of the universes and all created things (cf. Phil. 2:11).

On the first Christmas, Jesus emptied himself of the privileges of God in heaven, and came to reveal God’s servant nature (vs. 7). While God is by nature eternal sovereign God and ruler over all, he is paradoxically also by nature the all-time greatest servant—putting the needs of others over his.

God’s heart is revealed is sacrificing himself for the betterment of the ones he loves, rather than in hoarding and lording it over others.

God is not like humans. Humans aspire to rule, aspire to get power and influence, and then to do whatever it takes to hold onto their position and power. Jesus as God, emptied himself of the power and position of being the Lord of the universe, in order to reveal to us that the true heart and nature of God is serving. God’s heart is revealed is sacrificing himself for the betterment of the ones he loves, rather than in hoarding and lording it over others.

Jesus became vulnerable by coming to us as a baby. He went through the struggles humans encounter. He showed us that God’s ways are not man’s ways, and therefore that greatness is seen in letting go of positions and power.  

This teaching is seen in Matthew 20:20-27. The popular view of the first century in Israel was that the Messiah would become a ruling king in Israel and extend his rule over the world. The mother of James and John came to Jesus asking him to make her two boys Jesus’ right- and left-hand men in his kingly reign. When the other disciples heard it, they got jealous, for they too wanted to rule.

Jesus corrected their misunderstandings, saying that life with God must be different from life without God. In Matthew 20:26–28 (NIV) he taught: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus showed us the servant-heart nature of God, as he came to serve and give his life as a sacrifice to set us free from our sins and our selfish nature. Jesus laid aside his majesty to show us true sacrifice and service. He reversed roles from being the Lord and master of all, to becoming the servant of all, even serving the least of us.

When we respond to Jesus, embracing what he has done to rescue us, our lives experience role reversals too. We change from being alienated from God’s presence, to being welcomed by God. We change from being afraid of God, to loving God. We change from being self-serving, to serving God and the people we encounter.

What roles in your life need to be reversed this Christmas, so that others can see Jesus in and through your life?       

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.