This is my favorite chapter of the entire bible. Someday, I want to have the whole chapter memorized. I’ll never be able to understand how God could love me so much to humble Himself like He did.
I mentioned before that I’m so excited about the unity that you are showing as you learn about Christ and share His story in your community. Thinking of that, if my excitement encourages you at all, if you feel safe knowing God’s love, if you feel connected to each other because of the Holy Spirit, if you feel tender (that means gentle) or compassionate (that means you have a kind understanding of someone else’s hard times) toward each other, my excitement can be complete and perfect joy – that is, a peaceful, calming understanding that God is near no matter what – because you are working together with God’s perfect love, thinking the same thoughts and wanting the same things as each other, like a perfect team. Don’t do anything to make yourself look good or because you think you are the best at something. Instead, think of each other first instead of yourselves. Don’t look first at what you want to do, but look first at what is best for others.
To become this perfect team, you need to put yourself in the same thoughts that Jesus had. Think of what He did:
He is God, but He didn’t use the fact that He is God to put Himself ahead of or above everyone else.
Instead, He put Himself at the very lowest place – like He was nothing, just a poor, regular human. He was even like a servant. He had the same breakable skin and bones that we do.
He looked like a man, even though He was God. And He didn’t just live a normal human life, either. He made himself even lower than that. He made Himself so low that He died like He was a criminal, even though He didn’t do anything wrong. He let Himself die for us, but not only that – He let Himself die an ugly, painful, scary, horrible death that is reserved only for the worst people!
Because He did that, God raised Him up from the lowest place to the highest place. Jesus is the name that wins! He is the Rescuer. He is the Hero. His is the most important name we could ever know, more important than any other names.
His name is so important and so powerful and so good and so perfect and so high up that in His name, every knee will bow down – everything in heaven, and on earth, and even in hell – and every tongue will say that Jesus Christ is Lord, and then everyone will know who God is.
This is such a hard thing to understand. But you’ve always obeyed – when I was with you and even now that I’m gone – so keep on obeying even as you work out what this means to you that Jesus would do something like this, even when it makes you afraid and overwhelmed because its such an incredible story. God is the one working in you and teaching you how to do what He wants you to do. With His help, you can live the best life possible – one that shows the world who God is.
Do everything without complaining or arguing with each other. This will make you clean. You will be called children of God even though others around you are dirty and don’t do the right thing. You will show God’s light, just like the stars do, as you remember God’s word that gives life. I will be so proud of you! I will know that the work I’ve done to teach you the story of Christ will have been worth it. Even as I’m working so hard that I feel like there isn’t much of me left, like I’m a cup of water that is being poured all the way out until it is empty, I can feel so glad, and I can have that peaceful, calming understanding that God is in charge and He will set things right. You should be glad and joyful, too.
I hope, in Jesus’s name, that I can send Timothy to you soon, so that when he comes back to me, I can be encouraged as I hear about the good things you are doing. I don’t have anyone else like Timothy – he will really care about you doing well. Everyone looks out for what is best for themselves instead of what is best for God’s kingdom, but Timothy has shown that he will work hard to do what is right. He’s like my own son, helping me like I’m his father. I will send him to you as soon as I can, and I’m sure that with God’s help I’ll get to come soon, too.
But I do think I need to send back your friend Epaphroditus, who is like a brother to me now, too, who has been your messenger and has been taking care of all of my needs. He misses you so much and wants to show you that he is better so you don’t have to worry about him being sick anymore. He was very sick, actually, and he almost died. But God healed him. And God healed me, too, in a way, because if he had died, I would have been so, so sad. So that makes me even more eager to send him to you, so that you can be glad that he is all well when you see him again. Welcome him home with great joy, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to help me when you couldn’t send anyone else.